Thursday, August 11, 2011

Loving Strangers - Online

We associate hospitality with opening one’s home to others, being a thoughtful and generous host or hostess, a welcoming personality that puts people immediately at ease and makes them feel comfortable. And hospitality is all of that, of course, and more.

What I find fascinating is that there are exactly four references to the word we translate as “hospitality” in the Bible, although similar ideas and concepts are implied in many other places. Two of the four direct references are included in St. Paul’s list of qualifications for elder (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:8). A third reference is found in his letter to the Romans (12:13), where he gives a rather direct command: “Practice hospitality.” The fourth reference is St. Peter’s words (1 Peter 4:9), where he says to “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

The literal translation of the Greek word used in these references is “love of strangers.” We are to be hospitable to each other, but we are also to “love strangers.” And because Paul knew the failings of the ordinary human, he made it a command: practice hospitality. What he’s saying here is that it doesn’t come naturally: we have to practice hospitality, and keep at it.

Some people are naturals at this. Some aren’t. I’m not. My worst nightmare is to throw me into a cocktail reception where I don’t know the first soul in the room. I’m always in awe of people who seem naturally able to work a room, talking with total strangers, and making people feel at ease.

What I’ve found, however, is that the internet can level the playing field.

Perhaps it’s because it’s not an official or physical “face-to-face” meeting, or possibly the “risks” are reduced, or you can always x-out and sign off. I don’t know the exact reason, but I’ve seen this on others as well. I’ve also seen the extremes; some people will and do say anything online, things they wouldn’t dream of saying in a face-to-face conversation.

I see hospitality practiced all the time on line.

Charity Singleton, for example. She blogs at Wide Open Spaces, and once a week she visits someone else’s blog and writes about on her blog.

Louise Gallagher, who blogs at Recover Your Joy, is another “practitioner” of hospitality. She will go out online, get inspired and write a blog post about what she’s found.

Jason Bourne blogs at Jason’s Spinal Bifida Journey, and I don’t think I’ve met anyone as enthusiastic about people and life as Jason.

Chris Goforth sends a good morning tweet on Twitter every morning. He blogs at Goforth’s Journal.

Friendliness, enthusiasm and encouragement ooze from Megan Willome. She blogs at Sabbath Says.

J of India blogs at Neither Use Nor Ornament. He lived most of his childhood and working live in England, and then retired to India, where he takes wonderful photos and posts them on his blog. We’ve had a few email conversations, and all I can say is, someone who places a quote by G.K. Chesterton at the top of his blog is OK by me.

There are many more people I could cite. But the six listed here practice hospitality every day. They make strangers to their blogs feel welcome. They leave encouraging comments. My life is richer because of them.

Over at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray is hosting a weekly blog carnival. This week, the topic is “the gift of hospitality.” To see more posts on the topic, please visit Faith Barista. Bonnie’s an experienced practitioner of hospitality herself.

Illustration: Christ in the Breadline (1950) by Fritz Eichenberg.


Sandra Heska King said...

Oh, Glynn. You are one of the most hospitable people I've met online. You swing open the doors of your home every Saturday and spill love all over strangers. You are the first to retweet, and I'm pretty sure I "heard" you say that you read (or at least) skim every post you post. You pour love all over the blogosphere with your encouraging comments, and my life is richer (and maybe my writing better) because of you. You are not a stranger. You are a friend. To many.

David Rupert said... first I thought you were a little off with your thinking, but you brought it all together. Yes, "Virtual hospitality." It happens all the time -- the encouragers, the blessers, the friends from afar.

Maureen said...

I agree with your choices here.

Hospitality could be your one-word description. It's always a pleasure to learn the subject of your posts, which invariably have a human element, and focus so much on the good and the positive.

sandyman said...

Loved this! I loved the concept...I loved the recognition of bloggers that sincerely spread joy and I love the notion that these behaviors..these actions can have an impact. They do. I don't know you stranger....but I think you make a difference. I like that.

Louise Gallagher said...

I agree with what everyone else has said. You define online hospitality.

As to a group of strangers at a cocktail party -- I too am discomfited by the scene and so walk in and ask myself, 'who can I help feel a little more comfortable' and find the person standing alone and make a point of introducing myself to them. That way, both of us have someone to talk to. :)

And as to my mention in this list -- thank you. I was surprised and honoured to see myself mentioned in this way. You touched my heart. A very hospitable thing to do my friend!

Mama Mpira said...

Loved this idea of 'online' hospitality...a.k.a. generosity. So helpful to find other blogs.

Unknown said...

Loving strangers...sound like Jesus. Bless you bro' for sharing this today!

S. Etole said...

You have this hospitality thing down to a "T"!

I look forward to meeting those I've not yet met.

Duane Scott said...

I am inspired today to do more.

Love this, and want you to know, you have online hospitality as one of your finest qualities, Glynn

Unknown said...

Hmmm...I never thought about what I do on the internet as being connected to hospitality. Thank you. You've given me some food for thought. :)

Lisa notes... said...

If Paul knew it doesn’t come naturally, I feel a little better about my reluctance to be hospitable. :-) I’m not a natural at it either.

But on-line, yes it is much easier for me. My life is definitely richer because of the friends I have made through blogging.

Great post, Glynn.

Anonymous said...

we have not
face to face
and yet
we have
met words
to words
to thought
your heart
is open
like a door
of hospitality

you are a friend
you do love strangers

H. Gillham said...

and you are one of my favorite hosts --- I've been visiting and mixing and socializing with complete strangers because of your Saturday Good Reads.


Kathleen Overby said...

You found an essential way to offer your amazing gift of a large hospitable heart. Many thanks from a grateful guest. I'm offline much during our short summer, but during the long winter, you all offer such warm coziness around the cyber fire. It has been a lifeline.

Bonnie Gray said...

Glynn, I would add your blog to the list here of the The Most Hospitable Blogs Around! :) I always feel welcome here -- and have gone from stranger to friend because of how you give space to all of us, by giving so much of yourself -- the parts of you that can't be found at a cocktail reception.:) Thank you for making the Faith Jam community that much more welcoming by being a part of it!