Getting to Know You

“Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2)

There is something divinely human about hospitality. It is a universally-acknowledged truth that the measure of a soul’s nobility and elegance is in the generous hospitality that he or she displays. As a long-term guest in a foreign nation, I have had the constant privilege of being on the receiving end of such comforting generosity. From a sweet, steaming cup of coffee waiting for me each morning in the campo, to strangers taking on the role of self-appointed tour guides, to professors going out of their way to drive me to my favorite café, my time as a guest has only confirmed the comforting power of hospitality. But what of the duty of the guest? A snowball effect of experiences have let me to this conclusion, that my mom (and I’m sure mothers everywhere) was correct in insisting, one should always leave a place better than how it was found. Obviously this applies quite conveniently to messy playrooms, but as is so often the case, our lessons from kindergarten apply more gravely as adults (much like how I had the funny urge to pass out those “The Golden Rule: treat others how you want to be treated” rulers at the Haitian-Dominican Republic border yesterday.) Focusing on leaving a place better than how we found it gives us a great goal, while leaving the creative specifics up to the demands of the situation. I think its important to understand hospitality as a means to an end, that it provides a gentle framework for getting know a fellow human being on a deeper level. Both the host and the guest engage in an ancient, at times awkward, dance that allows space for a genuine relationship to flourish. Think about it– we offer our best to our guests, not because we actually feel any affection for them yet, but because we want to display our respect for them and our excitement to share time and space with them. To put it another way, the manners and formalities provide the avenues through which joy in one another’s company can be cultivated. At it’s root, hospitality is about the dignity of the human person, and that is why it is so ancient, universal, and continues to be needed all over the world. Whether through washing the dishes after a meal, arriving with a thoughtful gift, or simply inclining a listening ear, practicing the art of hospitality refines and beautifies our characters.  I have seen it over and over again here; the simple display of courtly manners, for example, asking if you can help with cooking dinner, blossoms into an unexpected friendship. No one can resist the inherent elegance of generous heart. Simply put by Mother Teresa,

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”

And how else to tie up this article but to share the lovely song from the King and I that lends itself to its title: Getting to Know You and of course, a timeless recipe from one hostess to another: The Best Lemon Bars Recipe. Here’s to good music, good food, and good company!