Radical Hospitality and Abundance
- Created on Saturday, 28 January 2012 22:40
I recently returned from a vacation in Mexico where I was hosted by a friend of a friend for the duration of the trip. The hospitality I was shown can only be described a radical. In our culture, it seems that guests are always aware of overstaying their welcome or becoming a burden on their host. When describing this instinct to our host, the concept did not really translate. She was simply honored to receive us into her home, even refusing to accept our offer to buy groceries during our visit. Despite the fact that financially we were more secure, her identity as host and her understanding of hospitality and generosity trumped her fear of losing resources.
This got me thinking about how we understand scarcity and abundance. As economic concepts, the ideas can manipulated to cultivate environments that encourage or disccourage consumer activity. But in our country, even in times of recession, as a whole, we live with abundance.
The public narrative, especially for the past five years, has been that we live in a time when resources are scarce. For some, this is not just a narrative, but a very real struggle. For many of us, life goes on with perhaps fewer luxuries, but our needs are still met. And for an even smaller percent, these times have been profitable. The reality is, we have enough in our state and country to meet the needs of everyone living here: it's a matter of fair distribution and political will.
A couple of learnings from my trip that we all might benefit from include a readjustment of needs verses wants and truly being part of an authentic community with the people who are in our lives (like co-workers, neighbors, faith communities, schools, etc.). While the family we stayed with for our vacation, were by our standards (and apparently theirs) considered poor, they seemed to be content with their basic needs comfortably met. They didn't have fancy computers or a car, but their lives and relationships were no less full because of it. They in fact, felt they had the capacity and obligation to share what little resources they did have with community members who were less fortunate then themselves, trusting that God would, in return, provide.
As the legislative session gets underway, I can't help but think that we should be applying these ideas of generosity and abundance as we move through the process of deciding how to be in community as a state. At JRLC, much of our work this year will be focused on initiatives to reduce poverty and homelessness, but with balanced budgets perennially on the minds of legislators, this task is often difficult despite good intentions.
It is going to be a busy session, and so many important issues will be discussed and debated in St. Paul this year. My hope is that as we begin these discussions, we carry with us a sense of generosity towards those who have struggled most in the current recession and those who live at the margins.
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