08 Dec On Hospitality, #2: Beginners

Last week I wrote that parenthood calls us to a new hospitality. But what does that mean? What exactly are we talking about when we talk about hospitality?

Hospitality starts as a willingness to connect with other people. With ALL other people—no matter what.

But…

I know. I hear you. ALL other people? ALL of them? All the time? No exceptions? Yes. It’s true that other people can be challenging. They’re wrong, they’re strange, they won’t listen. Who wants to connect with THEM?

We know instinctively that connecting is our mission in this life. It is what we were made for. We do not, cannot, thrive in isolation.

But…

Yes. You’re right. It’s hard. We wish it wasn’t, but it is. For me, for you, for all of us. When it comes to hospitality we are all beginners, always, because when we act out of hospitality we’re acting on the assumption that there ARE no other people. There are only OUR people.

We are in this together. This, we know, is the value we are called to teach our children. This, we know, is what we are called to cultivate in ourselves as parents. That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

So how do we begin? By developing the spiritual muscles that do the work of hospitality: patience, empathy, compassion. By practicing whenever we can.

3 Tips for Practicing Hospitality in Conversation (for Children and Adults)

1. Ask with sincere curiosity.

When we come from a place of willingness, “How are you?” is a real question. Hospitality takes us beyond mere formalities and into a place of genuine connection.

2. Listen with intention.

When we come from a place of willingness, there is no such thing as small talk—there are only pieces of someone else’s story. When we take the time to listen with intention to another’s joys and concerns, we are opening ourselves to the possibility of really knowing them.

3. Sit. Stay. Breathe.

When you commit to listen, you will hear things that challenge you. You will be bored sometimes. You will be annoyed. You will hear things that make you angry or uncomfortable. Stay where you are. Remember: you did not commit to agree. Keep listening.

These are, admittedly, small steps toward an ideal. But they’re steps we can take together, one interaction at a time. Let us try.

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