It is interesting how hospitality and hostility sound so much alike but are practiced so differently. Other than the first three letters, these practices have nothing in common. Hospitality is about building bridges and welcoming all of humanity. Hostility is about building divides that separate us from one another. Hospitality thrives on peace and healing and hostility thrives on conflicts and confusion. Practicing hospitality helps us to increase our tolerance of those whose lives are different from ours. Practicing hostility helps us to become more distrustful and suspicious of others.
It is easy to be hospitable towards those who are being hospitable towards us. However, as I have been reminded the last few days being hospitable to those who are being hostile is difficult and challenging. Practicing hospitality in a conflictual situation has helped me to increase my tolerance of people in society and their belief systems. The last few weeks I have had to share a space with people of diverse belief systems and one of the people had become increasingly distrustful, suspicious, and threatening. In this situation, I found I had to be intentional about keeping the doors of communication open, when I really wanted to shut them. It was not that I did not want to hear what was being said, I was not willing to consent to abusive behaviors and the use of abusive language in speaking to me.
As I prayed my way through this, I was reminded that there are people who have become distrustful in this world for a diversity of reasons. There are individuals who become fearful and paranoid when approached with ideas that challenge their belief system or seem strange. There are those who are suspicious of anyone who is not exactly like them. There are those who have experienced so much pressure to become what others want them to become that they become hostile and pose to fight the moment anything threatens them in any way, shape, or form, intentionally or not.
One of the things this has taught me is the importance of letting people know we are not here to change others, although change is possible. Being hospitable means, we welcome and accept people as they are even when they make it difficult at times. As I am continuing to navigate my way through these waters, it has taught me about being hospitable with those who are not quite ready to accept my hospitality.
It reminded me of my son when he was younger and he was still having disruptive behaviors and I would have to wrap my arms around him and hug him and hold him until he had let out all his anger and could begin to soak in my love for him. Loving those who appear to be our adversaries is not easy. Yet it is in times like this that we are allowed to practice our beliefs.
I have been reminded these last few days, as difficult as they have been, to practice Satyagraha. To remember that we have all been exposed to the same misinformation and that we both have pieces of the truth. My Bubby would tell me not to throw the baby out with the bath water. I have been trying to remember this, as I have had to be intentional about working with others to create an environment with a wide enough harbor that all who sail in can feel welcomed.
I have also been reminded that sometimes it takes an entire team to create that feeling of hospitality. Sometimes we alone cannot create that environment. Sometimes it takes an entire community to make one feel welcomed. Sadly, I have also come to realize that there are those who are so accustomed to feeling unwelcome, that they cannot accept the hospitality of others. For them, hospitality feels hostile.
While we cannot control others thoughts, feelings or behaviors, we do have control over ours and the intent from which we come. May we each do what we can to practice hospitality in our lives, understanding that sometimes may be easier than others may be.