Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Heart Hospitality

I like welcome mats. When you walk up to someone’s door, the mat tells you something about the people who live there. Is it a functional mat or a fancy one? Perhaps it has a sports logo or birds or flowers on it, or a funny message from the dog or cat. It might say “No one is a stranger here,” or “Come back with a warrant.”

Hospitality. So many stories and customs. We’ve heard about families who always had an extra seat at the table for someone stopping by, or extra food handed out the back door to the hungry. We’ve heard about the legendary hospitality of the Bedouins. And Southern hospitality. And the story of the loaves and fishes in the Bible.

And of course my daughter, who used to stand on the front porch when she was little and call down to people passing by – “Hello! Where are you going? Where do you live? Do you have any kids? What’s your name?” – until I could race outside and scoop her up.

What about our heart hospitality? Is there room at the table for one more? Do we turn away strangers? Jesus said that when we feed the hungry, give clothes to the needy, visit the sick or imprisoned, or welcome a stranger, when we do it to the “least of these,” we do it to him. Notice, he didn’t say it’s “like” doing it to him. We do it “to him.”

A Course in Miracles teaches that when we separate ourselves from others not only through actions, but even by our thoughts, then we separate ourselves from God. Thoughts of anger, unforgiveness, criticism, envy, fear, block our ability to see the divine in everyone.

We have busy lives and good reason to exercise caution for our safety, but in our hearts, can we put the welcome mat out? Can we greet each person with a silent Namaste (I honor that place in you where, if you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us)?

I just went to my front door and looked at the welcome mat. It is dirty and faded and frayed. I’m going to toss it in the trash and go buy a new one.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. –Hebrews 13:2

Related post That Man Might Be Jesus


  1. wow loved this post ....really touched right down to where we live in this society today

  2. I really enjoyed your post so much ...please stop by and visit me anytime...I signed up to follow you

  3. Rhon--Glad you liked it and thanks for commenting.

    joybug--Thanks for stopping by and following. I look forward to visiting your blog, too.

  4. Awesome reflective thoughts! I think I will make my door mat more inviting. I remember times that my mother would give food to someone who came to the door. In today's world that can now be dangerous. Nevertheless there are many ways to reach out to those in need.
    Blessings to you!
    Living Waters by LeAnn

  5. You always contemplate good principles. That's important to one's overall well-being.

  6. You know Galen, it is important but today, there are just so many crazies out there, that it's hard to determine who to assist and who to run from. I extend hospitality to all my family and friends, and those I don't know, I try to practice kindness with them, that way I am still sharing myself but not putting myself or my family in risk of danger by allowing a total stranger to hang their hat in my house... That's just me though.

  7. It is unfortunate but true that Tracy has expressed a feeling that prevents a lot of personal contact..the legitimate fear of people who wish you harm. I tend to think the media and people with a certain agenda inflate the risk of harm from strangers, but it is part of our world.

    In Phoenix virtually no one has a front porch or spends any time in the front yard. We pull into our garage, put the door down, go through the house, and enter the perceived safety of a walled-in backyard. Contact with neighbors is rare. A welcome mat rarely wears out because so few people come to the front door.

    That's sad.

  8. LeAnn--You are right. We need to be mindful of our safety. That's why I like to think of heart hospitality. We can always extend at least a kind thought to anyone. Thanks for commenting.

    JJ--Thanks for your comment.

    Tracy--As I said to LeAnn, I'm not suggesting that we throw caution to the wind. But in our hearts, we can put the welcome mat out for all through compassionate thoughts. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Bob--I was speaking somewhat figuratively about the welcome mats in our hearts. However, you and other commenters have raised a valid issue about physical hospitality and attendant dangers. That is sad. I am lucky. I live in an old inner city neighborhood with big trees and close together homes. I know most of the people on my block and many others nearby. Block parties are common in my neighborhood. My neighbors and I help each other and visit with each other. We even do things like borrow eggs and other last minute things when we're cooking! I'm very fortunate in that way. Certainly other places I've lived were not like this. Even so, I'm mindful of safety around people I don't know. That is a sad fact of modern life.

  10. Galen -
    You are so right about a welcome from the heart - I believe there are many ways to send a heart felt welcome to those we meet each day.

    For many years I worked in a university environment (some of it through the hippie era) and was always surprised at the friendliness of students as they walked on campus. If I gave eye contact and said hello, there was always a reply. I had not realized it until just now that this short, pleasant greeting was a heart welcome.

    These greetings from the students were often my first greeting of the day.

    William Shakespeare said "Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast."

    In my home the welcome mat is just about always out and is considered by some as a sanctuary. My husband and I have housed quite a number of people just passing through (people who are friends) and provided a safe haven for a little while. From this we have received many heart welcomes in return.

    I appreciate all the heart welcomes in my life and Namaste to you Galen!

  11. Hi Galen!

    I have returned! This comment should be called "Return of the Vizier" or something. Still stuck in Star Wars mode with my latest article. I like how I can use "The Vizier" to do many things, most of all refer to myself in 3rd person if I so wish. But anyway, it is good to be able to comment on your blog again. :)

    If I had a welcome mat, I am likely to go for functional. But being aware of the impact it would have on others, I would probably make an effort to make it hospitable. Indeed I have heard of the legendary hospitality of the Bedouins although I have been more inclined to use them for their warrior skills in my grand strategy games haha!

    I love your articles and the way you touch on the simple things in life. All too often, I am too caught up with the big picture and fail to notice the simple things like hospitality. I think it would do the world a lot of good if we were all more hospitable to each other.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)

    Irving the Vizier

  12. What I enjoy most about your the uplift, and refreshing insight into what I can do, or maybe already am, so I feel hey that's good....especially after I've just hopped off Facebook...too much self groaning (I won't say more) as for my welcome mats...ah I have three! One at the beginning of the sidewalk leading up to the front door, (cuz it's by the garage door) it's a sturdy flowery one, then at the first step to the porch it's one of those brushy things that help scrub your shoes if necessary (is that being???) and last another large sturdy flowery one (my outdoor cats love this ) but so has the racoon...hmmmm anyway I've learned to spend a bit more in the rug so it lasts longer....Have a great rest of the week...tomorrow is FRIDAY!!!!

  13. Another great post. I love your idea of a welcome mat representing our heart hospitality. I also believe, that while we need be aware of the people who may wish to harm us, the huge and overwhelming majority of people are kind and decent and long for a sense of community and fellowship amongst neighbours. In other words, we shouldn't let our fear isolate us from those around us, or limit our hospitality.

  14. I liked the ideas in this, and how well you got it across in a few, well-chosen words. Your daughter's a treasure. I think I'm going to start sitting on the porch and doing that!

    My brother lives to amuse people. His welcome mat states, in flowery letters,"Go Away".

  15. I have a welcome mat at every door...functional and inviting.

    On my walks around the Lake in the early morning, I try to check in with the homeless - make sure they know about the free health clinic, food, and coffee availability....usually I am just checking in to acknowledge they are there and I see them.

    I try to put a welcome mat on my face as I venture forth...the biking commuters now know me and smile and wave back....some just scowl

    The thing I find unwelcoming are all the folks with earphones in their ears and don't make any contact at all - you have to get out of their way - always...

    When I talk to the young drug offenders who pass by my house from the half way house up the street, they usually have something to say...sometimes they stop and visit - I guess I am a bit like your young daughter on the front porch!!!

  16. Elene--I love your description of your campus life (I am just now retiring from teaching at a graduate school), and your home life (many of my relatives and friends' children have come to stay for various lengths of time. I think you must be in your happy place much of the time!

    Irving--Welcome back! I've missed you!! This calls for some kind of celebration, perhaps involving welcome mats! Ha!

    Karen--3 welcome mats. You must have a very welcoming home! I'm glad you find the blog helpful. When I started this, I thought we all need some simple ways to weave good habits into our everyday lives. I really appreciate your kind words. And I knew there was a reason I never use Facebook!

    Kara--So true. There are indeed many lovely people we overlook because we are afraid. I am good friends with a homeless guy in my neighborhood. He comes by on recycling nights to get cans, etc. If I happen to see him, we sit out on the steps and visit for awhile.

    Mikey--My daughter is a treasure. You should have seen the faces of some of the people she caught in her net from the porch. Hmm, they were thinking, I am trying to take a walk and this three year old won't stop asking questions! I used to call her Miss Q for all the questions she asked, not because she wanted information, but because she wanted to keep people engaged. She hasn't changed much!

    Patricia--Thank you for sharing your examples of a true welcome mat in your heart. Yeah, those earphones....

  17. Welcoming people really welcomes them into our lives in some way. This enriches our lives, their lives, and passes on the positive energy that kindness spreads across its path. You post has made me reflect on my own 'welcoming' in my house....basically non existent in material form (welcome mats, food at table etc, but we frequently welcome those who drop by with warm hearts and offers of cups of tea, a glass of wine, or a longer stay with the grill fired up or the take-out menu on hand. Impromptu welcomes in our house are popular with our new neighbors, but I think I might invest in a nice welcome mat just to seal the deal!

  18. Fantastic post, I'm sure that I've fed angels in the past. I try to never refuse others food no matter how little I have. My mother raised us this way and I've never forgotten this. Today I feed those who are hungry in hopes that if ever one of my children are hungry that the same would be offered to them.

    Have a fantastic weekend!

  19. Hi love, This blog kinda ties into the continuing blog I'm writing. At one point in my life I was out on the road depending on the good will of strangers for my survival. And I found that projecting a God consciousness will trigger the God consciousness in strangers. Finding out how potent this idea of opening yourself up to strangers can be has added a new dimension to my life.

  20. Wonderful Galen. We forget that we are children of God. My welcome mat doesn't say anything. Guess I better toss it and go get a new one too. Never thought of it that way, but it does say a lot about who lives in the house.

    Thank you for bring this to my attention, It is really appreciated.
    blessing to you, Debbie

  21. JackSamMum--I like the spontaneous visits you describe with your neighbors. I know most of the neighbors on my block, and we often visit each other, especially in the summer. By the way, I really liked the way another blogger described you as a light warrior. So true!!

    darlin--When I read your comment just now, I remembered the dream I was having when I woke up this morning. I took a teenager who was hurt to the ER. When someone asked me why I helped, I said that I would like to think that someone would help my child in the same way.

    suzzy--Thanks for sharing part of your story. How powerful to initiate the God connection yourself and see the other person respond.

    Debbie--I've been surprised and pleased that so many commenters have written about their welcome mats! Let me know what your new one looks like!

  22. Galen, you always inspire me with your posts. This a welcome reminder for me to open my heart. Too often, I close myself off and that is no way to live.
    Your writing and words are beautiful (as always). Thank you!

  23. Hi Galen,
    I love that your daughter used to ask the people walking by so many questions! Cute. Yes, I think you made a beautiful point - we need to be hospitable to everyone we meet. I love the concept of my heart as my welcome mat that too is beautiful!

  24. Galen
    Wonderful! Read your post before daybreak this morning. It's going to change how I relate to people today.

  25. PAMO--Thank you! I really appreciate your kind words.

    Angela--You should have seen her in the grocery store! She would ride in the little toddler seat in the cart and talk to everyone in the aisles about what they had in their own carts, plus all the usual questions about name, kids, etc. A trip to the store was a real adventure!

    Riley--Thank you! I would love to hear later if you had any particular encounters as a result.

  26. You have got a lovely daughter. Your post on the welcome mats is beautifully told :-)

    I have been on a drive to clean up my home in the recent weeks and had changed my welcome mat just a few weeks ago. Like you, I noticed that it was grey and dirtied. I chose a design that's simple and a mat that is functional. I don't like fancy ones.

  27. Evelyn--Doesn't it feel good to put a nice new welcome mat in front of your door? Thanks for commenting.

  28. Lovely post Galen :-) I update my mat often [they don't take long to get shabby in high traffic areas] This little house where I live is a funny place. People come in and pull up a chair and want to stay. It's not unusual for someone to pop by and stay 5 hours. What that says about this place [and probably me] is anyone's guess. Maybe I just talk a lot but I like to think that it's something more than that [grin]


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