The Lost Art of Hospitality

Welcome mat
(Photo credit: Lynn Kelley Author)

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 19

Then [Lot] welcomed them and bowed with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “come to my home to wash your feet, and be my guests for the night. You may then get up early in the morning and be on your way again.” Genesis  19:1b-2a (NLT)

As I started reading the chapter this morning I was struck by Lot’s hospitality, which parallel’s Abraham’s hospitality from the previous chapter:

My lord,” [Abraham] said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while. Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet. And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.”

About ten years ago I spent a short period of time in Israel and was struck by the tradition of hospitality that is shown by the cultures there. When I read about the way Abraham and Lot welcomed and honored their guests, it feels very much the same as the way I was treated by complete strangers in some of my travels. Taylor and Clayton reported similar experiences from their travels in Morocco and Uganda. Hospitality towards strangers and guests is a time-honored tradition.

As I look back over my lifetime and observe some of the drastic changes I’ve witnessed in our own culture, the loss of hospitality is one of them. I’m still proud of “midwest nice” that you’ll still find in our small town here in Iowa, yet when I remember the way my grandparents regularly welcomed visitors into their home I am struck at how different it was. The coffee pot was always on in the morning and the tea kettle in the afternoon. There were always treats ready for guests, and there were always guests.

Even in my childhood and youth the welcome sign was always out at our home. My parents used to say to us “your friends are always welcome here,” and they were. Friends would stop by for a visit even if we kids weren’t home. They knew my mom would feed them and they would be treated like honored guests.

Perhaps what I experienced was the exception not the rule, but I don’t think so. I tend to think that we shut ourselves in our warm homes in the winter and our air conditioned homes in the summer. We lock the door and socialize with others in front of a computer screen. Meanwhile, the art and tradition of hospitality – of welcoming one into your home and caring for them with honor and grace – has been slowly lost despite the fact that God’s Message hearkens to the previous two chapters we’ve read and calls us to perpetuate the very practice:

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Hebrews 13:2 (NLT)

I have tried to perpetuate the spirit of hospitality in our own home, though when I think back to the experiences of my childhood I realize that I haven’t always been as fine a host as the examples I was given. It’s a good reminder for me today.

If you’re in the area, stop on by. I’ll start a pot of coffee and the tea kettle will be boiling.

3 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Hospitality”

  1. I was born and raised in a town in north central Iowa.

    I have hitchhiked all over the United States and have met some friendly, helpful people. But there does seem to be a lot of fear in certain places–like in Las Vegas, in parts of California and in some cities.

    “Bereshith”
    http://hitchhikeamerica.wordpress.com/2012/12/25/bereshith/

    I am guessing by looking at your last name (Vander Well) that you come from a Dutch community either in northwest Iowa or near Pella, Iowa. I used to know the publisher of the Doon Press in northwest Iowa.

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