Hospitality is not one of my gifts. Unfortunately, I am not the host who makes incredible tablescapes, bakes fresh cookies for guests, and waits on others hand and foot. Rather, I am the kind of host who says things like, “You know where the sweet tea and water is, so help yourself!”
I think hospitality is a talent and gift that can—like all gifts—be cultivated in my life and in yours! I love learning from others and observing how they practice hospitality so I, too, can be a good steward of the things I have been given and share them with my community.
One of the sweetest, most selfless portrayals of hospitality I have seen was in the Dominican Republic in the community of Punta Licia. Padre Keiter, a community leader and pastor of the local Catholic church, ran a seminary school. The school was attached to his home.
After seeing Padre Keiter’s interaction with us, his students, and the woman who helped with upkeep at the seminary, I started thinking about Biblical hospitality and how I saw it modeled.
In Hebrews 13:2 we read, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.” Padre Keiter had never met me or the other interns, yet he welcomed us into his home and the home of his students without question. He knew we had a long drive back into the capitol ahead of us, so he offered to open up his home and let all of us use the restroom available if needed. While we were there, he offered to let us eat a meal with him and his students. On our way out, he offered to pick fruit from a nearby tree so we could have it for breakfast the following day. Time after time, Padre Keiter modeled selflessness, thinking about our needs over his time and energy. This is true hospitality.
I believe he and his students also modeled hospitality in the early church. The apostles and other followers of Jesus would break bread with one another and interact with one another daily. Padre Keiter, from what I could tell, is a strong inspiration and influential figure in the young men he teaches’ lives. He fosters those relationships, and he interacts with all of them daily: teaching them, helping them, and breaking bread with them.
I think hospitality is so much more than how I often practice it. Hospitality leads to true community, vulnerability, and closeness with others. It is meant to be a daily practice we are constantly open to, not something we do on the holidays or just for our closest, dearest friends. Hospitality is welcoming one and all into our circle with open arms, treating them with dignity and respect, and putting their needs above our own. I am thankful for those like Padre Keiter who are much further in their journey of hospitality than I.