After the year we’ve had in this country, I am ready to turn the page on 2017 and go on to 2018. The tragedies we’ve seen with our eyes and read about in the news, the frailties of would-be leaders, and the resulting tumult we have witnessed in our public discourse all leave me longing for a fresh start. Perhaps you’ve felt the same way.
But we still have a month left. And, furthermore, it’s not like we can just forget everything we’ve all experienced. It follows us.
What do we do about the fact that we can’t just get away from this? One of the ways we can do that is to go back to our shared stories. And, as diverse as we have gotten in Southwest Riverside County, the Advent story still speaks to many of us.
It tells us about a child conceived in surprising if not questionable circumstances. The long journey of his parents to ancestral land. The young, expectant mother and her husband searching unsuccessfully for a place to stay. The newborn child placed in a feeding trough for animals because there wasn’t room anywhere else.
As we consider the last detail, we note that never before has such a small, inferior act of hospitality made such a big difference. Someone gave up their stable for the night, and that act made room for hope to enter the world. It’s barely hospitality, but it changed history.
If we are going to turn the page, something tells me that small acts of hospitality will end up meaning a lot to us. Some of us are angry. Others feel isolated. Many can’t understand how people can say what they say. And all of us experience the distance that our divisions have created. Sadly, we continue to encounter alienation because we fail to talk to each other. But if we practice relational hospitality and are open to the people around us, then perhaps we will begin to see each other again. But we can only do that if we make room for people who seem foreign to us.
What does that mean, practically? Perhaps it means we don’t make assumptions about somebody who walks into our office based on what there they are wearing or how they speak. Or maybe we graciously engage someone who uses language we would never use and seek to understand them. It might involve offering a cup of cold water or coffee to somebody who is clearly unhappy. Such actions are undoubtedly profitable for business. We might even dare to hope that they help our community and our nation turn the page on a difficult year.
Because, as we know, a lesser act of hospitality ushered hope into the world.
Dr. Drake Levasheff is Senior Director of Azusa Pacific University’s Murrieta Regional Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.