Taisha writes about her experiences of hospitality in South Africa:
Hospitality has to me come wrapped in so many ways during my seven months in South Africa, that I find making a concrete definition difficult. However, I don’t think there is a need to define it, because you know it when you receive it. The second week I was here, a young woman (Ruth), working at the school nearby, invited me to go to a Bible study and stay the night with her and her husband on their farm. She didn’t know me from anyone else, and I didn’t know her from anyone else. Little did I know, it was the start of a long, beautiful friendship. In the morning before heading back, she packed me a little sack of muffins to get me through the day. Ruth and Philip (her husband) have been such a blessing to me – gifting me with friendship, a place to stay, home cooked meals, English conversation, but more than that, teaching me hospitality (or kindness, generosity, friendliness, openness, welcome – from the thesaurus on Microsoft Word). Others have been hospitable through their work. The ladies at the crèche always make sure that I have something to eat for lunch and say thank you every day when I depart. Khanyi and Mr. Mayaba always share their drinks and lunch with me and insist that I sit squished in between them up front in the bakkie, so I don’t have to sit by myself in the back. Pamela, a high school student who hostels at the center where I live, came to my door to give me a chocolate bon bon, when I know she rarely has these sweets for herself. During the end of February through the middle of March, nine German student teachers were staying at the guesthouse connected to my flat to do a teaching internship at the local schools. Every night they invited me to eat with them, play cards, share in snacks and drinks, and just plain socialize…and yes, they spoke English as much as possible so I would understand. They invited me to go on a weekend excursion with them, which I would have never been able to without them. They had a huge farewell braii (bbq) and invited many people to share in the fun. Most importantly, they always included four boys who live at/around the center, and made them feel cared for and loved during their time here.
All of these moments eventually make me think of the foreign exchange students who end up in my home town from year to year. Sure, they have wonderful host families that take them in for their time, but I can’t help but feel guilty for the way they have experienced our town, our state, and our country. I was always too busy and caught up in my own life to take the time to invite over the foreign exchange student that lived down the road from me. I never had her over for dinner, to do homework, to talk, to spend the night. I never let her into my life fully. Of course, I talked to her in school, at events, and during tennis, but outside of that, what did I do to make her feel welcomed, like she belonged, like she was important, like she was a child of God?
We all know people in our lives that could use love and care, but why not give that to all people we meet? Why not let every person with whom we come into contact feel like they are of worth? Jesus characterizes the final judgment of the good in Matthew 25: 34-40 like this:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and your clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Why shouldn’t we want to do these things?