Today’s entry continues a few rants I began a few weeks ago (rant 1, rant 2).
Basically, I was irked by a person’s persistent trespassing of my
personal property and the dissonance it created with my theoretical
values about community.
Keeping with common human practice, I paid a visit to the
restroom. Now, I happen to be one of those that must read while
on the john, so I grabbed Making Room by Christine D. Pohl (review), a book I
began but never finished. Let me share with you a portion of what I read:
understandings of hospitality have a minimal moral
component–hospitality is a nice extra if we have the time or the
resources, but we rarely view it is a spiritual obligation or as a
dynamic expression of vibrant Christianity.
Those of us with resources can usually avoid depending on the personal
hospitality of strangers for food, shelter, and safety. Away from
home, we buy our meals and book comfortable hotel rooms. Unless
we travel in a foreign country, live through the devastation of a storm
or an earthquake, or run into car trouble on the road, we’re unlikely
to know what it is to be a vulnerable stranger needing someone else’s
help. In a highly individualistic and commercial society,
depending on the generosity of others is difficult and sometimes feels
degrading. Whereas in ancient times all strangers depended on
someone else’s hospitality, today, it is those without resources who
depend most on the free provision of food, shelter, and protection that
Let me confess, that this person’s liberal use of my
personal property was only mildly inconvenient. But, it was very
annoying. Was it rude and inconsiderate? I certainly felt
But these are feelings that come out from a man raised in “a highly
individualistic and commercial society.” This is America, where
independence is a virtue, and where we’re all suckers for a politician
who’s pulled himself up by his own bootstraps.
So, I guess in previous times (or in other parts of the country and
world), while hospitality is politely requested, it is generally
expected. Refusing hospitality would be not only rude, but maybe
even insulting. I have heard that refusing hospitality has been
grounds for death–and I believe it. I suspect it is because it
reflected on the worth of the would-be guest.
As I am growing up, I realize that “being independent” is more myth
than it is fact. I am quite dependent on my web of relationships
not only for social and spiritual well-being, but for physical
sustenance as well. There are food, rides, borrowed items, gifts,
discounts, free help, and money that flow through this network.
When I look that all that I am and have, I have nothing to be proud of
because no matter how hard I have worked, I cannot take full credit for
any of it.
I look back at my initial annoyance and I feel a little bit
ashamed. At the same time, I realize that this person still was
rude–s/he didn’t even ask–I didn’t have a chance to be hospitable or
But of course, as I am growing up, I also realize more and more how
important it is to obey God’s commandment to be forgiving. I
guess life is barely possible without hospitality, but it is impossible
(Caleb, I forgive you for trying to steal my tapioca drink. But next time, please GIT YOUR OWN DRINK, BOY.)