Posted in Spiritual practices

Homeless Hospitality

“The very idea of hospitality requires not only a ‘hospice,’ a home, but also a particular kind of giving and receiving. An empty self is unable to conceive of the fact that he or she has something to give, something to offer. Such a self is also, oddly enough, unable truly to receive. As Cushman indicates, the empty self consumes in order to feed or fix the emptiness. But consuming is different from receiving. Consuming has about it an air of desperation as the consumer seeks to create a persona or satisfy a fabricated need. Genuine reception requires gratitude, the ability to see someone or something not as a product but as a gift. It therefore requires a person, and a culture, that is not interiorly empty or placeless but is capable of giving thanks. And giving thanks is a way of indicating that we are not our own creators. While it has become something of a cliché, Blanche Dubois’s ‘I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers’ captures a truth about our lives. Truly receiving gifts from others is a way of acknowledging our dependence on others, and so also a way of accepting that we are not our own creation, even if that creation feels, for all the reasons Cushman discusses, interiorly empty. 

“Instead of a fragmented and empty self, then, hospitality draws us into a richer context where we must make sense of ourselves as ‘guests’ and ‘hosts,’ acknowledge our dependence on others, and learn to live with gratitude” (Newman, 2007).

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