This weekend, I will be at a meeting that stretches over parts of two days. It begins Friday evening, and reconvenes for a full day on Saturday. Although the group that is meeting is called a “working group”, or something of that sort, it can be simply understood as being a committee of New York Yearly Meeting of The Religious Society of Friends.
To make it simple once again, a bunch of Quakers from all over New York State and the northern half of New Jersey are getting together to conduct some Quaker business. So a bunch of us are going to need places to stay overnight. Local Friends (Quakers) have opened their homes to us.
For several reasons, I have been equivocating about attending this meeting. Finally, the clerk (chairperson) of the committee sent me an email, saying that his next door neighbor has offered me a place to stay. (The clerk already has someone staying at his house, someone who was among the very first people to subscribe to Something Entirely Different.) He told me that his neighbor will be away, but I could use the house, and he (the clerk) would drive me between meeting and lodging, which spares me the unfamiliar roads at night.
To further put this in perspective, I should mention that the committee clerk and I are barely acquainted. We have attended meetings together in the past — that’s about it.
So, I am going to the meeting. How could I not?
As requested, I called the man who is allowing me to stay in his house while he and his family are away. He told me that the guest room on the ground floor, next to the bathroom will be ready for me, and the door will be open; it is never locked. He also suggested that, if I wasn’t bringing a cell phone, I should leave his phone number with my wife, in case she needs to reach me.
That conversation left me dizzy. The trust and generosity I am being offered by people who don’t know me or barely know me are blowing my mind, so unexpected are they …
Oh, yeah. Did you read my last post, the part where I wrote about Gander, the small town in Newfoundland? About how on September 11, 2001, when the United States closed its airspace, three dozen jumbo jets carrying 6700 people from 92 countries were forced to land in this town of 10,000 and stay for five days? I wrote about how the people of the region not only set up shelters with donated space, food and clothing, but took people into their homes, took care of their needs, and befriended them. I said this is how we are supposed to behave.
I was right about all that when I wrote it, but, I confess, I didn’t really get it on an experiential level until now. (I’m a Jersey guy, where the state motto is Welcome to New Jersey — now go home.) This is hospitality of Biblical proportions; I mean hospitality like Abraham and Lot showed, and I am thinking of Jesus sending his disciples into the world carrying nothing but faith, trusting in an ethos of hospitality.
So, I am amazed and humbled, but I am also startled by the timing. At a time when I have been thinking about hospitality, hospitality has come to me and explained itself. I cannot help but suspect that there is a lesson plan at work someplace …
(In a break from the recent past, as I publish this post, I am pretty clear about my next two posts. Expect to hear from me again early next week, and expect that I will be posing a question and expecting answers.)