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STRANGENESS

July 22, 2016


I know, I know. Two posts in one month. One week, even. Who am I?

Every time I see the news lately, all the sadness going on in the world, I feel this intensity to just do and be better. Because I can’t control the world, but I can control me and I want to believe that that still matters.

So imagine my excitement sitting in a backyard with strangers talking about that exact thing in a kind of spiritual think tank with really good desserts (REALLY good desserts) on the side.

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a barbecue hosted by the people behind Multiply Goodness – a really rad website/organization dedicated to unifying like-minded people who have faith in the Good and Divine in the world. It’s not just a Mormon thing or a Christian thing, but this really unique niche where people can focus on spirituality, sources of Goodness, where questions can be asked and convictions can be shared. It’s just a place where the only motive is love.

Eventually, they hope to grow it into something where not only is there Mormon and Christian representation, but writers who are Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist bringing all aspects and viewpoints of goodness and spirituality. Because at the end of the day, we are all more alike than we are different. It was a fascinating discussion as a group talking about how to create a safe place to talk about similarities, and to understand differences in a non-threatening way.

My mind was RACING, but always about what was being talked about. I’m not trying to diss myself at all when I say, that’s a rare, rare occurrence. Three hours of being purely engaged, not a stray thought of bacon, or wandering to the mountains, or funny memes, or good songs, or ANYthing.

The concept we discussed was one of developing an attribute, a spiritual gift really – one that we don’t often talk about or focus on, but one that could truly transform the current state of the world. The concept was that of hospitality.

Wait. Hospitality?! I was like, oh, throw more parties? I mean, I CAN. Haha. But. A bit more to it than that.

In his book “Reaching Out,” Henri Nouwen says hospitality is the movement from viewing strangers through the lens of difference and hostility “to offer[ing] an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings.”

Let me just throw that at you again. A place where strangers can cast off their strangeness.

A place where those who are different than can explain their convictions, and we can honestly listen.

A place where those who are hurting can share their hurt, and we can hurt with them.

A place where we aren’t frightened by someone’s differences, but we see their humanity beneath.

A place where every person becomes our fellow human being.

It’s the simplest sentence and I honestly can’t say it better, but it was the exact answer to what I’ve been yearning for. The world needs me, and you, and all of us, to be someone hospitable, to be space where strangers can cast off their strangeness.

In the King James translation of the Bible, we read, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” In many other versions, including the NIV, it reads,
“Inasmuch as you have been hospitable unto the least of these my brethren, you have been hospitable unto me.”

Does that hit your heart or what?

In many other religious texts, words from masters of thought, the admonition is the same. This teaching of hospitality, the invitation to be a safe space is a call from on high to the divine being in each of us. To be better. To build bridges. To love well. To do good.

To be a person who loves so purely they become a place, an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings.

(Napoleon Dynamite lady voice) I wayant that.

I want the feeling I have every time we visit Hawaii, and Cody’s mission family is mine.

I want the feeling I had in Minnesota, kneeling in humid apartments holding hands with immigrants and crying with them the first day we met because we were sharing the best thing we knew.

I want the feeling I got working the front desk at my old job, watching strangers interact in the waiting room — like when fully-tattooed ex-cons would offer their coats to the shivering elderly.

I know realistically, that there is bad in the world, I see it scrabbling for our attention on every news report. I’m no more blind or naive than the average person.

But I also know that there is good. So, so much good.

And I know that goodness can be multiplied if each of us focus less on tearing others apart – if we look less at differences or disagreements and start with ourselves, and work hard to be a safe place where our fellow human beings can come to be seen and to rest.

To be human, together, with us. To be no more strangers, but brothers and sisters.

I want that more than anything.

But I can’t twist anyone’s arm. So today, I’m starting with me.

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