Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Radical Hospitality

Today, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it is probably not just random coincidence that my web-surfing took me to two great earlier posts concerning hospitality:



These concerned how welcoming we are to newcomers, but combined with the anniversary, they got me to thinking about deeper issues of hospitality.

Back up ... a couple of years ago, a lot of UUs were talking about a book called Radical Hospitality. I didn't know the author, but I searched for it on half.com and found a book with that title.

When it came, I quickly came to realize that it was a different book of the same name.

This was a book about a fundamentalist Christian couple who made a habit of taking in homeless and indigent people and letting them live in their home. People off the street.

Now that, my friends, is radical hospitality.

Where is the line between really reaching out, and being irresponsible to self/family?

Last year, my heart bled, as so many did, watching what happened after the levees broke in New Orleans. I conferred with my husband and we quickly decided to offer up a large room in our house for any "refugees."

We looked for a way. There was one site that had simple listings. List what you offered, someone in need could contact you. Anyone.


Our denomination was attempting to do something similar, but "taking care of ourselves." If there was a Unitarian Universalist family that needed a place to stay, they'd set them up with one of us. But you needed to be a member of a UU church in order to get help.


I don't fault our denomination ... to ask your members to take in complete strangers with no references is pretty risky. We'd like to think that everyone is sweet and good, but there are news reports that say otherwise.

I don't think that I would do anything different. We had three kids and an infant. How do I ensure their safety with someone living down the hall from them, no personal references?

Wait. I changed my mind just as I was writing that. Yes, I would have been worried about my kids. Our bedroom is downstairs and their's are up. But you know what? We could have slept up with them, and given our bedroom to someone else.

Of course, it's a small bedroom, and the better plan would have been to give the entire upstairs playroom to a whole family.

Damn. I don't know what I'd do. I don't know where the line is.

But I'm pretty sure I'm not even remotely close to it.


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