Three important lessons of hospitality

Sometimes, indeed oftentimes, there are no preparations for hospitality. Nevertheless, there are many opportunities to practice hospitality or to host a stranger. There are rewards for doing so, and the following story from my personal experience illustrates that such rewards come in different ways.

It was summer and I had enrolled in a German language course at the University of Cincinnati. I was excited as I looked forward to summer school – I was grown up, you can tell – and I told everybody I knew about my upcoming language course.

In the past year since arriving in Cincinnati I had met a German couple through the church, and we became good friends. Every time we met we just could not avoid talking about my soon to come German lessons. They were as excited as I was: After-all there is something exciting when somebody is interested in learning our language.

One day, during one of those casual conversations, Heidi announced – with visible excitement in her eyes – “my friend Susanna will be your teacher! She knows you too!”.

Indeed, I had met Susanna ten years earlier when she was traveling in Tanzania.

Two German friends had visited us in Tanzania, a mother and her young daughter, both of them blind. I took them to visit a school for the blind where a friend from my seminary days worked,  about 200 miles away. On my way back – our visitors were to stay at the school for some weeks – my friend asked me to help his visitor (Susanna) get a seat on the bus as she was traveling to my home town.

While visiting her friends in northern Tanzania, Susanna stayed at our house one week-end.

Ten years later she turned out to be my German language teacher at the University of Cincinnati. When we met in Tanzania she was simply a stranger traveling in a foreign country. Indeed there was nothing unusual or special about her travels. It was very common for people to go to a foreign country because they knew somebody there from their area. Through church connections they were then able to travel anywhere in the host country and got connected to the local people as this story illustrates.

None of us in this story thought of any possibility of meeting again. For us it was a common story of guests or strangers and hosts. For me it was the reversal of my experience in Natanya as I was traveling to Kibbutz Regavim in the previous story. Indeed, if I would have thought of meeting Susanna again, I would have thought of Germany.

Yet, our second meeting was thousands of miles away from home for both of us.

This is what I learned from this experience: First, the stranger today may turn out to be the host tomorrow. Second, be host to a stranger – and a good one – because your paths may cross again someday. Third, there is always a reward for hospitality even if you do not see or recognize it.


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