So I have had to laugh at this whole notion of hospitality. I have been intentional about creating a space here at Inspiritual and in our home where all feel welcome. We have done this in part because we have all know what it felt like when we were not enough of something or too much of something to feel welcome and accepted by a movement, community, or other group. Years ago, I wrote a poem called I am enough where I spoke out about all the areas of my life I had allowed myself to feel marginalized and excluded by others words and behaviors.
I knew I was never excluded by the one who created me and has loved me my entire existence, however, there have been times when other humans have reminded me that I am on earth and not in heaven. Sometimes the rejection, the inhospitality has come in the most unexpected of places. For example, when I was in seminary I struggled to find that place of radical hospitality amongst my peers. I remember my first year I went to the black student retreat. My light skinned biracial body walked into the retreat space and I remember everyone looking at me as if I was lost. I knew I was not lost; I was a light-skinned biracial woman walking into a space where over the course of the day the others made it clear to me you are not welcome here. At the end of that first day, one of the leaders came up to me and asked me why I was there. My innocent spirit said, because this is the black student retreat. “Oh, are you biracial?” he asked. “Yes, why?” Well because we have been wondering why you are here? This questioning of why are you here is something that followed me the whole time I was there. They told me I could not attend the meetings because I was not black enough. I could not be a member because I was not black enough. When one of the few people who recognized my blackness nominated me for office, the current president told me to stop being a troublemaker. Of all the places, I thought I would have felt welcomed it was here. I was wrong.
However, I thank them for the experience because it reminded me what it felt like to feel unwelcome. That feeling has continued to shape the way I minister to this day. This is not my space or Zoe’s space or even our space. It is space given to us by the Ultimate to do the work of the Divine here on earth. In this holy space, all are welcome. Sometimes that has meant that we have needed to move beyond our comfort zones. We have had to look at our own prejudices, internalized fears, and other beliefs, which might create barriers to us welcoming people to our place.
“You are not welcome here.” “Go back to where you came from.” “Would you mind not letting people know you’re a lesbian?” “Can you refrain from mentioning you are married?” “I am sorry we only rent to ‘married’ couples.” I think knowing what it is like to have been told these words has helped me to grow and evolve in my own way of being in this world. It has been the inhospitality of others that has reminded me what it feels like to be the least of thee.
So as hurtful as those moments were, I am so grateful for them as they remind me how I never want to make anyone feel. I remember those feelings, not with the pain I once did, but as reminders of how I never want others to feel in this space. Sometimes coming here is difficult enough for people who have experienced rejection. The only thing I want them to feel here is waves of unconditional love and radical hospitality.
So thank you for making me who I am. Thank you for bringing me through the you are not enough experiences and helping me to become who I am. Thank you for teaching me the importance and value of practicing radical hospitality.