[Vision2020] what is hospitality?

keely emerinemix kjajmix1 at msn.com
Sat Sep 29 09:41:31 PDT 2007

I left yesterday's NSA candidates' forum before the audience questions came in.  Someone asked Wayne Krauss about the recent boarding house ordinance; Krauss answered, according to the Daily News, that it was a question of when "a guest becomes a boarder."


My mama always taught me that guests are the people you invite to enjoy your family's company, your home, your food and drink and some Jello-based dessert.  For free.  The women on both sides of my family, going generations back, would smack me silly if I ever collected a fee from those I invited.  I'm just now getting comfortable with the idea of a potluck; it runs against my grain.  Still, guests are people invited who are required to bring NOTHING and pay NOTHING.  And I accommodate guests based on what my home and family can reasonably handle.  I don't go out and buy a five- or six-bedroom home knowing that my "guest fees" will cover part of the mortgage.  Hospitality is a gift, not a for-profit venture.

Jeff and I have also had people live with us, again for free, when they're in desperate straits.  We wouldn't accept  payment from them -- we were engaging in hospitality to "the least of these" who probably couldn't have paid us back anyway.  Certainly no one reading this would fail to offer whatever they could provide to someone in need, and we're no different.  Hospitality is a ministry, not a fee-based social service.  

If one of our elderly parents were sick, we would without question have them in our home as long as we could provide the kind of care they needed.  Hospitality is an obligation of family, not a burden.

On the other hand, if we had someone who lived with us because of convenience, someone who wanted to hang with our family while she or he studied or worked or prepared for marriage, we might agree to let them, and we would ask them to help offset expenses, with the idea that we were substitutes for dorm or apartment living and costs.  I would accept a couple of hundred or so, or a bag or two of groceries a week, or help with the heating bill -- and then I'd go down to City Hall to get my CUP.  Boarding is a neutral thing, morally, not an opportunity to break the law.  

And while I may be -- would hope to be -- a hospitable host, I would be clear that my making hundreds of dollars from three or four or five boarders is NOT hospitality.  It's probably not even a smart idea, but the City Council is in charge of holding the City responsible for enforcing the law, not probing the ministerial or filial motive of living arrangements.  Real hospitality knows nothing of casual law-breaking, profit, investing in too-big houses, or cries of persecution.  I would expect classically-educated Christians to be aware of what my beloved grandmother knew with only an eighth-grade education and a Catholic Missalette.


"God works patiently and deeply, but often in hidden ways, in the mess of our humanity and history."
--Eugene Peterson

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