At our food pantry, we have a children’s corner. It is filled with books and toys for the children to play and even choose something to bring home. One evening, little James waved me over to meet his new purple stegosaurus. He explained, “See the missing eye? He’s been through a lot. I’ve been through a lot, too, so I chose him. We’ll stay together.”
In this child’s tenderness, I learned a new truth about the radical edge of Benedictine hospitality. There is value in creating space for the other within our walls as we often do–hospitality centers carefully designed to welcome people for a momentary dip into our abundance of silence, beauty, prayer. But James was talking about hospitality even more radical—near our sacred solidarity with all people.
The solidarity to which James pointed is based on vulnerability rather than strength, and the commitment to stay at the journey together. A solidarity based on mutuality rather than one gifted group welcoming needy others. In fact, we need the stranger in our lives, our conversations, and our community to reveal God’s unbounded creativity. James shows us all a solidarity based on a mission always flowing outward, transforming our lives and compelling us to transform the world.
Radical hospitality, then, is not so much about welcoming others into a sacred space as it is living together within a sacred reality. We are one, after all. We just cannot worship a homeless Jesus on Sunday and ignore another homeless person on Monday. We can’t wall up our spaces of beauty and trash God’s creation. We cannot create complicated structures to bring people together while denying that togetherness is, in fact, our starting point.
Last fall Becky, one of our volunteers from Ministry on the Margins was riding with her daughter when she said, “Mom, look. Is that one of your people over there?” Becky was caught off guard as she looked at the homeless man and then realized, “She gets it. My daughter gets it!” “Yes.” Becky said. “He’s one of our people. Let’s pray God keeps him safe tonight.”
Learn more about S. Kathleen Atkinson OSB, her work with Ministry on the Margins, and her upcoming events:
Beyond Fear: Helping Communities Choose Welcome (Professional Day)
Thurs., Feb. 27, 9a-3p
Everyday Prophets: How Small Acts of Courage and Compassion Change the World (Retreat)
Fri., Feb. 28, 7p, thru Sun., Mar. 1, 1p