I walked into class and noticed that one of my favorite students was missing. A missing student always makes my heart uneasy. It means one thing. Sickness. The news wasn’t good this time either. My 11 year old student had fallen and broken his leg. He is now on bed rest for two months.
As soon as class was over, I made my way over to the dormitory. Propped up on pillows and alone in a room full of twin size beds, I found my friend. He put on a brave face and I held back my tears as I saw his leg wrapped from his thigh down.
“Come sit down, Teacher.” He welcomed me into the room. I sat gently on the corner of his bed, hoping not to disturb his leg as he struggled to open the top drawer of the tiny plastic storage drawers that sit next to each bed. Those drawers. They represent everything that belong to these kids. It is their space. That is all that they have.
He pulled out a small chocolate bar. He held the treasure in both hands and extended them to me. “Please eat, Teacher.”
He was welcoming me. Giving me all that he had in a gesture of hospitality. My eyes were filled to the brim with tears for a second time. I shook my head and refused. I could not eat his chocolate.
He continued to insist.
My head knew that he needed me to accept. My heart was protesting. How could I take something from a child who has almost nothing.
I have been rolling this story through my mind for days. I have considered the huge smile he gave me as I broke that tiny candy in half and shared its sweetness. “You like chocolate. Right?!” He was so proud to be offering something to me. Giving and not just receiving.
The ultimate act of hospitality.
This young boy sharing a corner of his bed, giving me all that he had in joy – it is an example to me. Since his accident we have been sharing an hour, two afternoons a week. He has some small thing waiting for me and I pull out a game to amuse him. On Thursday he had saved a cherry from his afternoon fruit. (Sniff. Sniff. I mean, who wouldn’t cry over an orphan giving them a saved cherry. Right?!)
So, I have just been thinking. Often I want to make hospitality into some kind of Pinterest event. I often claim I don’t have time to have people join our table because I don’t have some perfect meal or a clean house to present. I strive for perfection and that robs me of the joy of relationship. I think great hospitality can look like a tiny chocolate bar given in great love. Maybe it doesn’t have to look like a perfect center piece, gourmet food, and well planned dinner conversation.
Because God wasn’t blowing my mind enough with this whole idea….
This week I have had the joy of watching first time foster parents prepare for a little one. They haven’t had a baby around the house in years and they were gathering things and preparing their home for a crawling, milk drinking, life-changing bundle.
Talk about hospitality. Who does that?
I was amazed. I am not talking about being amazed that they were buying things for a kiddo who will never share their name, although I think that is down right selfless. I am talking about loving a child who is not your own as if they were. Opening your home and your heart with the belief that kids need families and a safe place to learn, heal, and be loved. The foster dad said to me, “We don’t feel called to adopt, but this is a way that we can support adoption. We can love this kiddo as he waits.” That is an example of hospitality that blows my mind.
I am sorry Martha Stewart. You have nothing on my friends.
A chocolate bar. Opening your home to a foster child. Two pretty extreme examples of hospitality for me to ponder. God has been tapping me on the shoulder and reminding me to open my heart and home in a way that is unique to me whether it be big or small.
Hospitality. I am rethinking the word.