First things first. What is hospitality? Author and priest Henri J. N. Nouwen brilliantly defined it in his work The Wounded Healer: “Hospitality is the ability to pay attention to the guest.” It seems simple enough yet not many people do it well. I’d like to be someone who does. And I’d like to encourage others to do the same, that is, to sharpen their ability to pay careful attention to others. So, why is it so difficult?
Nouwen said that the difficulty in paying attention to the guest comes with our preoccupation of ourselves and our intentions. Instead of listening we wonder what we can gain from him and what we can do with what she is saying. The stunning conclusion? “Anyone who wants to pay attention without intention has to be at home in his own house – that is, he has to discover the center of his life in his own heart. Concentration, which leads to meditation and contemplation, is therefore the necessary precondition of true hospitality.” Therefore, the essence of hospitality is empathy. Seeing through the eyes of the other.
There are two ways I enjoy honing my skills. The first is through travel and an unwavering passion for connecting intimately with people. I love to dive into unfamiliar worlds. Traveling the globe, especially building houses with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Program, allows me the privilege of getting to know a little about life in other cultures. The sighting of a massive elephant, the smell of fresh manure or curry, the sound of an indiscernible language, the taste of tangy hibiscus tea or sweet coconut milk, the feeling of floating in the ocean. Sensory overload at its best.
The second can best be expressed as a desire, maybe even a need, to entertain. I am rarely happier than when I am cooking and preparing to fill my home with friends and family. If I were a business owner I would own the most exciting and inviting Inn, hosting guests with great attention to their comfort. (When that happens someday, you’ll probably read about it here first!)
I have a zeal for sourcing and preparing the highest quality organic food. The more I learn about the food industry in the United States, the greater my passion for eating well. A true foodie, I am not satisfied with less. Yet, I place the highest value on remaining unpretentious and nonjudgmental when I am a guest at another’s table. I must. For if I do not, I cannot fulfill my first passion – connecting deeply with others.
Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll be inspired to give others one of the most loving gifts you have to offer—your attention.