January 23rd, 2014

Hospitality is always in season, and honey is a symbol of radical hospitality for me.

The coming of spring brought with it the usual chorus of sneezes and coughs. The visual effects of eye waterworks and athletic noses join this annual spectacle. And puffy eyes and scratchy throats star in supporting roles.

One evening as we were preparing to retire for the night, my wife, Yulise, said she was experiencing some discomfort in her throat. I arose from our bed and began my noble odyssey down the hall, through the living room, and into the kitchen, where I put some water on to boil.

I soon returned to her side with tea and an unopened economy-sized container of honey I found nestled near the back of our pantry. I could not recall buying this honey and assumed that Yulise had shopped for the sweet during one of her monthly expeditions to the food warehouse.

As I squeezed the honey into her tea, Yulise told me an anecdote that gave my rather mundane action a metaphysical quality. Unbeknownst to me, her recently deceased mother had given us the container of honey. My mother-in-law, Gloria, would often purchase items for our family during her own weekend shopping expeditions: another noisy toy or another outfit for her grandchildren.

I don’t know how such a large container of honey fit into her shopping plans or what inspired the purchase. I don’t know if the purchase was planned or impulsive. But what I do know is that as I squeezed out the honey into my wife’s tea, I felt as though I was a conduit of a mother’s love to her daughter. I could not help but think that even though my mother-in-law had been gone from us for several months, her acts of generosity and hospitality continued to flow and to minister to us.

Acts of generosity and hospitality can never be underestimated for their potential to provide strength and encouragement to others, especially when needed most. When we anticipate and then act to meet others’ needs and concerns, no matter how menial, we affirm our commitment to several truths: It is better to give than to receive; we are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper; and we more fully understand that “their destiny is tied up with our destiny,” as Martin Luther King Jr. stated.

Where would our communities be if more people fully embraced this understanding of mutual destiny and hospitality toward others?

We should all dedicate our lives to acts of radical generosity and hospitality. And we pray that these acts outlive us to encourage and support generations yet unborn.

excerpt from: Freestyle: Reflections on Faith, Family, Justice, and Pop Culture by Michael W. Waters. Copyright © 2014 by Upper Room Books. Used with permission.

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