I have been reading The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary True Story of the Last True Hermit.” The book tells the story of Christopher Knight, a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for nearly three decades. I am an introvert and, I must admit, there is something appealing about living far away from the consumerism, pressure, and hustle and bustle of society. The demands of our culture can no doubt be overwhelming- to have a successful career, to have all the right stuff, to dress a certain way, to be the perfect [insert your role here]. On some days, it really is enough to make one run for the mountains. And yet, hospitality is one of the hallmarks of Celtic Christianity. There’s the rub.
Too often, I believe, we assume that hospitality means cooking beautiful meals and regularly having a house full of people. Those are both great things. Mealtimes can be places of incredibly meaningful conversation and connection. But again, for an introvert who spends most of her days focused on meeting the needs of other people, I tend to be protective of the alone time my soul needs to recharge.
Last fall, our church decided to welcome a man who was homeless to live in our building. Not everyone in our congregation liked the idea, our neighbors in the strip mall certainly didn’t appreciate it, and even I didn’t always get it. On days when I had a big to-do list, the last thing I wanted to do was talk to Ed about the latest crazy news he’d heard on talk radio. And yet, I sat down with him to talk. My list usually got done. None of it was really that important anyway.
What is important are the moments that Ed felt included in our community. The quiet moments when he was helping me move tables or stuff Easter eggs when we talked about Holy Family as a place of belonging for him.
True hospitality is a way of life. It is about being present to God and the opportunities in front of us. An attitude of hospitality allows us to be open to the reality that God is working in the world. Always. You see, hospitality is not about the tangible needs we can fill. True, transformative hospitality is about offering love, building relationships, and being present to what God is capable of in our midst. Introvert or not, we all can make space to do this.
Kelsey Hart works with youth, families, and liturgy at Church of the Holy Family in Aurora, CO. A native of northern Illinois, she moved to Denver with her husband, James, 6 years ago. Kelsey is a fervent supporter of Celtic Way and is most interested in the intersections of Celtic spirituality, feminism, and work with marginalized communities. She and her husband are parents to a fierce toddler, appropriately named Brigid. In her wildest dreams, she'd like to be a writer.