Posted by: Darrell Johnson | October 5, 2009

Hospitality Compromised: there really was room after all.

“Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.” 
-Henri Nouwen

A little over a week ago I was working in our storage closet at Jeff St. and I met a man who had just gotten off a Greyhound bus and was desperately looking for a space to place his luggage. The morning was already and busy and my mind was consumed with all sorts of things from the previous week, so needless to say I wasn’t very patient that day. As another guest was exiting the storage closet this new visitor from Florida, let’s call him Bill, quickly approached me and inquired about an open space. That morning I didn’t open up the closet and I didn’t know how spaces were available let alone where they were at. So, in my selfish haste…I assumed that we had no space and I told Bill, “sorry, but we have to room today.” He then pleaded with me and told me that he had an appointment that he had to make downtown and he would be late if he had to haul his bag. As our exchange continued, the closet got busier and a line began to form outside of it. So again, I hurriedly told Bill that we had no room. He was obviously upset by this and I can’t blame him for being so. Still, Bill hung around the storage closet. After the crowd had gone through…I went to check to see if we had any space or not. Jeff St. is the only shelter that offers this particular service and it’s such a high demand service that we typically have no space, hence my quick yet irresponsible answer of NO SPACE when first speaking with Bill.

While I was checking around the storage closet I found a rather large space that was available towards the back corner and it had a tag that said “Space Open” with a recent date on it. Like I said don’t typically have many spaces open especially one that is fitting for a big piece of luggage. I walked back to the door of the closet and apologized to Bill for not being thorough with my responsibility and assuming that we had no space in the first place. He was quick to forgive me and just too overjoyed at the fact that there was a place for his bag to be upset. Bill approached the space as if it was sacred ground, looked up at the ceiling and said, “Thank You, Lord;” he then examined the space carefully and worked his luggage into that spot with great effort (it barely fit on the shelf). Again he shared his thanks with me and was on his way out to his meeting downtown. 

Later that day, after we closed, I got a call while in the kitchen. It was a pastor from a church in downtown Louisville and he made a strange request. He asked if he could bring Bill by Jeff St. to pick up his bag. At first I wasn’t sure if this was a joke or not so I asked for his name and the church he was with (ironically enough I can’t recall the name of the pastor or the church) and after he shared some basic/legit info with me; I told him he could come on down and pick it up. Typically we don’t do anything like that, but because it was a pastor I decided to make an exception on this particular situation. AND ANOTHER THING….I don’t know how/why but I remembered Bill’s name when the reverend inquired about his bag being in our storage closet, but I did. I say this because it was the first time I had met Bill and I only looked at his ID once and we typically have at least 40 guests come in and out of the storage closet a day, weird.

The reverend said he was going to bring Bill by to pick up his bag shortly and I agreed to meet both of them out front to let Bill get his bag. When I met Bill at the door he had a huge smile on his face and was very excited to get his bag. As we walking to the storage closet he thanked me about three or four times for finding him the space. When I inquired about all that was going on, he told me that the meeting that he had was with this pastor. Turns out this pastor had found him a part-time job and a place to live and if had not found a place to put his bag he would have missed the meeting.

I learned a lot that day.

I was reminded of the patience that God has for those who continuously tell him that they have no room for Him in their lives. I also recognized that hospitality shouldn’t be an attribute to someone’s personality but rather a natural quality that is formed by and exemplified through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

OH LORD, guide us all.
-Amen.

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