Sook-Ja and Doug

Angels unawares

Sook-Ja and Doug
Sook-Ja and Doug

I got Doug and Sook-Ja to the airport in plenty of time for them to catch their flight back west.

They were back from Korea for Doug’s 50th high school reunion and to look for a house as they plan to return to the states to┬álive.

My wife Toni and I really enjoyed their visit of several days. I think we’ve helped them find a house to buy here in Doug’s home town. He met Sook-Ja when he taught in the Peace Corps. I got to know him back in my teaching days, at South Side High School, the alma mater of both of us.

The visit of our long-time friends got me thinking about the importance of hospitality. To be sure, you don’t often see newspaper stories on the subject. Yet you’re welcome to Google the subject as I did the other day. You’ll find dozens of biblical references. I was surprised by the number. I shouldn’t have been.

Throughout the Mideast, and other parts of the world, one’s duty to welcome strangers rates high in any religious litany of ethics. Indeed, Toni and I have encountered an openness, welcoming spirit on our world travels.

The roots of hospitality go deep. In the Bible we’re advised to treat the foreign-born person as native-born. Those who welcome the stranger, invited to one’s own home, will inherit the kingdom of heaven we’re promised in Matthew.

Jesus and his disciples wouldn’t have had much of a ministry if they hadn’t been able to depend on others’ hospitality as they traveled through Galilee and Judea. In the New Testament book of Hebrews, we are admonished to welcome strangers on the chance we are entertaining angels unawares.

When I was growing up, Mom and Dad often invited cousins or just acquaintances to stay overnight or for days, even weeks. I was away at college when they played host to my cousin Bob and his family when their house in another part of the city was flooded out. Toni’s parents entertained Cuban refugees.

In recent years, we’ve played host to Buddhist nuns from Tibet. We put up a couple of women from Cincinnati in our city to sing at a music program for elementary students. We’ve had relatives of our granddaughters from El Salvador in our home. I also recall a local music teacher brought a Japanese opera singer to our home.

Extending a welcome to travelers, friends or strangers, would seem like such a normal, commonplace thing to do. Benefits for everyone are great. It’s more than making travel easier and saving money for the sojourner. Hospitality enriches the lives of both guest and host. This is such a great way of learning about other people and other cultures.

Like travel, hospitality surely is the enemy of prejudice. It encourages us to abandon our mistaken notions of other lands, other religions, other cultures. Meantime, it can be humbling to discover other worlds as you entertain other lives. What a great thing is hospitality. Extending it reminds us that we belong to a much larger world. We are made more human.

So come back soon, Doug and Sook-Ja. A walk in the park and a hot game of cribbage await.

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