This week, I read in the blog of a friend, who’s spending his sabbatical in the Holy Land during the holy month of Ramadan, the following nugget:
An-Najah is a half-mile walk past Rafidia, so after church I had a nice walk up the hill. Along the way, I was hailed from across the street by one of the older members of Good Shepherd. He gestured for me to come over and visit, an invitation that one simply cannot decline in this culture. He insisted on serving me the most wonderful, homemade rosemary juice. Though I was technically breaking my fast, I feel sure that accepting hospitality is a duty equal to fasting in Allah’s eyes!*
His words pricked my conscience. One of the reasons that our recent family trip “home” was so successful was that, for once, we were the hosts rather than the guests for the greater part of our visit. We rented a holiday cottage and welcomed family and friends to visit us there, where we had arranged for ample beds and living space, instead of accepting the close embrace of spare rooms which were never designed for spare families of five. We set the menus, the bedtimes, the activities (despite polite consultations). We offered generous accommodations, provisions, assistance – but on our own terms.
Being hospitable to guests is easy, and fun, even when it involves activities which I normally prefer to avoid, such as dusting and vacuuming. Accepting hospitality takes a lot more humility, consideration, self-effacement and grace.
I am chastened by my friend’s (unwitting) conviction of my recent sidestepping of the honoured and honourable duty of a guest.