The cheerful words startled me. I had spent the morning living in my head while working on a writing project, trying to find just the right combination of letters and sentences and paragraphs. I hadn’t heard another human voice for several hours.
But as I walked through the front door of a local store, someone noticed me. Someone took the time to greet me and smiled at me.
Those words snapped me out of my head and back into the world around me. I noticed the young clerk near the door. I noticed the bright colors spread throughout the store. I recalibrated. I smiled. And all of that from a two-word phrase!
On the days when I’m not wrestling with words, I check in patients at a medical office. When they come to my desk, I often see concern written on their faces, and I recognize the signs of wrestling with the what ifs. My heart aches with them, but I know I can’t heal them nor do I have the medical background to offer any advice.
But I can do for them what that young sales clerk did for me; I can practice hospitality. Defined by Miriam-Webster, hospitality is “the generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests,” and I can do it from my desk without cooking or cleaning anything!
I can look patients in the eye and say, “Welcome! Nice to see you.” I can smile. I can listen if they want to talk about the day or their present challenge. I know the difference it can make.
We tend to think that hospitality happens mostly at home, but lately I’ve begun to realize that hospitality can (and should) happen just as easily in the workplace.
These words from Matthew 7:12 ring in my heart: “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them” (MSG).
I love being treated hospitably, don’t you? When a friend invites me over for coffee, I feel honored because she wants to spend time with me. When a family member offers to host me overnight, I feel grateful for a comfortable bed, laughter around the table, and a chance to be with family. At work, I appreciate it when a colleague smiles and says, “Good morning! How was your weekend?” And I have so come to love the friendly greeting of a sales clerk saying, “Welcome in!”
At its core, hospitality says, “I see you, and I care about you.” Because I have experienced the joy of hospitality received, I can offer the “generous and friendly treatment” to those around me.
When I arrive at work in the morning, I can greet my colleagues with a smile. When patients come to my desk, I can look them in the eyes and greet them by name. When a new person starts at work, I can take the time to introduce myself and say, “I’m glad you’re here.”
Why make so much effort? Because of Jesus.
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care — then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Philippians 2:1-4 (MSG)
May God continually open our eyes to see new ways of practicing out-of-the-house hospitality.