hospitality

The "B and A Eaters"

Two times a year I visit this healthy restaurant in my neighborhood. It is a nice place, serving people in the community for several decades and it really does serve good food. I intend to go there more often, but they are only open one day a week, only for breakfast, and by the time I remember this is the day it is open, I am very tired and have other obligations/options for breakfast. In fact, I have gotten to the point that I really enjoy eating at home with my family and friends, so unless they are going to go with me to the restaurant, I do not go. Except twice a year, my birthday and anniversary.

Photo by  Rachel Park  on  Unsplash

Photo by Rachel Park on Unsplash

The restaurant regulars know me as one of the many "birth-aversary eaters" or, for short: "B and A eaters." 

The people there are nice, to be sure and I know they are trying to welcome me to the restaurant they love so much. They tell me how long it has been since they saw me last and even talk about how great the food is or how I should meet the new chef who is doing so good cooking these days. All of it is okay, but a bit overwhelming. I sort of feel guilty when I am there because I am reminded that I generally do not eat healthy for breakfast all the time. I also feel a bit bad because I live so close to the restaurant, and feel like I should support local business and yet cannot seem to make it there more often. 

It really is a fine restaurant, and I support their work. I believe in eating local and supporting the community. I left a tip that was a bit more than I normally would leave as a way of saying thank you. And I am sure I will be back on the next anniversary, but I hope they would stop calling me a "B and A eater." I hope the chef does not point me out and say, "it has been so long since I saw you last, you should come more often!" I hope the guilt I naturally feel is not compounded by the regulars who do not see that I notice their disappointment when I am sitting in their usual spot. 

All I really want is to not feel guilty for going to breakfast. Maybe something is off in me? Or maybe something is off in the culture that does not know what to do with the occasional breakfast eater. 

The Greatest Wisdom From the Desert Christians - In One Line

I was sitting in my office the other day reading and trying to discover what the heck God would have for me to say on a Sunday morning, when a church member walked in and offered me a homemade blueberry scone. I accepted the gift, but stated I consumed a large breakfast about fifteen minutes just before. The young woman's face turned a bit downward as she realized that I was not planning on enjoying her gift. 

As she left I turned back to my reading material (The Wisdom of the Desert by James O. Hannay) and read: "So far as the advice of the greatest Fathers can be said to form a rule, it may be expressed in the words -- "Do not eat to satiety."

Simple meals allow us to receive hospitality from others.

Simple meals allow us to receive hospitality from others.

This is one of the few times that I sort of understood what the heck the desert mothers/fathers were talking about: Eating to your fill is unhealthy, but not because of the calories but because it denies hospitality. 

In not eating the scone, because I was full, I denied the hospitality of the young woman. I was not able to, because my stomach was full, to accept any more from another.

Clergy have been told that self care is important because you can only give what you yourself have. If you are empty, then you have nothing to give. 

This truth also holds not just if we are empty but also if we are too full. When we eat (or live) to satiety, then we are too full to accept anything else. This is an old truth but one that I often forget. 

Do not eat/live to satiety - you never know when Christ calls you to accept a new thing.

What colonoscopies can teach us about hospitality

I have never had a colonoscopy but I hear they are not something that many people look forward to undergoing. Maybe this is why we may not look to colonoscopies when thinking about hospitality, but the now infamous 1996 study might make us rethink our assumption. 

Quickly from the wikipedia entry, here is the study:

Colonoscopy patients were randomly divided into two groups. One underwent a colonoscopy procedure wherein the scope was left in for three extra minutes, but not moved, creating a sensation that was uncomfortable, but not painful. The other group underwent a typical colonoscopy procedure. Kahneman et al. found that, when asked to retrospectively evaluate their experiences, patients who underwent the longer procedure rated their experience as less unpleasant than patients who underwent the typical procedure. Moreover, the patients in the prolonged discomfort group were far more likely to return for subsequent procedures because a less painful end led them to evaluate the procedure more positively than those who faced a shorter procedure.

This is one example to show how it is the endings of an event that impact the way we remember the event. If the ending was bad, the remembered event was bad. If the ending was good, the remembered event was good. 

In the Church there is a lot of emphasis on the first impression we make to guests. This is why we try to have well kept landscaping and facilities, clearly marked parking and signage, greeters at the door, free coffee and doughnuts, a "glad you were with us for the first time" gift, etc. While these first impressions matter, so does the last impression.

To my preacher friends, I would submit that all the work that is done to find the "right opening hook" to a sermon, perhaps we need to spend time on the "right ending". It may very well shape what is remembered.

Clergy "secret" revealed

Recently I shared a story of my son who was "mortally wounded" by melted chocolate to talk about the power of rituals. There is even science supporting the power of rituals.

When I clergy go into a hospital setting, there is an unspoken ritual that takes place and what I have come to discover is that ritual is generally to quick to be meaningful for most people. Here is the ritual:

Greeting - physical contact with the sick - talk with people present - pray - leave

The only thing that separates a clergy visit from a visit from the doctor is a prayer at the end. It is as though prayer is an exit strategy for us or a way to put a Jesus shine on the visit. Clergy leave but people are left behind in the cold hospital room, waiting. 

If it is true that the number of steps in the ritual matter, might I suggest all of us the way Jesus preformed rituals. Now we may not have healing powers, but look at the ritual Jesus does on John 9, verse bracketed for reference:

Addressed the crowd/ill [3], stated why he was preforming a ritual [4-5], used an external tool/element [6] and touched the sick [6], and gave a directive [7] 

Could it be that this would be a better ritual for hospital visits? Maybe this is why it would be worth Protestants considering to draw from our lost tradition but not forgotten by our Catholic sisters/brothers - anointing. 

Address the room  - Hello my name is ______, Peace be with you.

State why you are preforming a ritual - In the tradition of the Church, I would like to anoint your head with oil so that you may know even when I have left that God is always with you and that you are never alone.

Use external tool - in this case, oil

Touch the sick - mark a sign of the cross on forehead

Give directive - "Christ is with you, this day and every day. You never walk alone. From this moment on may you remember that you are a beloved child of God and a valued member of this world. Remember that you are of great worth and that your life has touched the lives of many. Remember who you are and who's you are. Amen." 

Pray.

I have now done this ritual in hospital settings about twenty times. With a variety of people in different settings, but the response has been overwhelmingly meaningful. Generally a thank you follows the standard ritual, but this ancient ritual has brought tears, smiles, thanksgiving, recommitting to God, hugs and holy kisses. 

And so, while this may not be something everyone feels comfortable doing, just like I do not feel comfortable putting an IV into someone's arm, I would commend clergy to consider the rituals we create and preform in the hospital setting. 

Let us do a better job at showing the peace of God, the love of Christ and healing of Christ in a place that often times desperately needs it.