Saturday, May 13, 2017

L’Arche Across America — Day 4 — Hospitality

Traveling across our country in a van with five other people, though the five are fast becoming precious to me, I have become a wanderer in the world.

I sleep in a different bed every night. I do not know where my next meal will be served or by whom. I am stripped of all that I am familiar with. Without the consolations of Facetiming and texting, I would be cut off from the person I love most in the world, my wife.

I am not asking you to pity me, because I am living the dream, and I know it and you may be starting to suspect it. But in my wandering state (since Tuesday), I may be feeling just a tiny bit what it is like to be alone, unwanted, and homeless, to stagger along on the margins of our wealthy, overfed, individualistic, judgmental, and shunning world.

And I am beginning to understand a vital antidote to such loneliness: the gratuitous gift of hospitality.

Todd—my fearless, twenty-something friend and fellow assistant, with whom I have so much in common if you set aside the nearly forty years of age that separate us, and older does not always make wiser, as Todd will tell you, I’m sure—courageously took responsibility for lining up the twenty-six destinations where we would be staying when we began planning this trip in December.

And did a great job, Todd did.

But still. There’s only so much you can plan.

The last two nights, in particular, have seen a pattern. Us, trying to squeeze one more sight or bathroom stop into a day that was over-scheduled to begin with, and therefore us, arriving after dark at an address we’ve never seen before, and us, not knowing even if our knock would be answered.

And them, the other, the unknown persons behind those doors at those unknown addresses, welcoming us, making us feel like friends, even like family, even smiling as if they were really happy that we had arrived well past their bedtimes and far beyond any meaningful definition of convenience.

In particular—

Thank you, Tim and Chris, who were there at Friendship House in Chicago when we arrived, completely spent, on Thursday night.

Thank you, members of the L’Arche Chicago community who laughed with us and cared for us on Friday morning, as we regrouped (photo at the top of this post).

Thank you, dear Luca, Chicago’s director of community life, who offered us a gracious, simple lunch in your Chicago home (seen in the photo at left with our own dear Jane).

And most recently, thank you to the kind members of The Arch in Clinton, Iowa, who took us in on Friday night, when we were not only spent again but lost.

We had crossed the Mighty Mississippi triumphantly but in the dark, and found ourselves in a neighborhood like a million other neighborhoods in this wealthy, overfed, et cetera country.

We stopped at the wrong house before finding the right one, and at the wrong house we were given a brush-off that was anything but hospitable. It was probably something like the brush-off I would give a group of six vagrants in a dusty overloaded van who showed up on my doorstep at such a time while I was watching, say, the Celtics-Wizards playoff game on TV.

But so, we finally reached the right house and got a mighty righteous welcome from Therese, Eric, Kenny, and others whose names I was too tired to catch. And I found on my bedroom door the sign that you see somewhere above.

Now it is Saturday morning near six. I woke up at three, thinking that I would read myself back to sleep. But the theme of hospitality entered my head, and now, too late for further sleep (John is already stirring in the next bed) I am good to go.

Thank you, L’Arche, for all these many gifts.

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