This past week, we completed our first full week of classes on the Kirkland campus of Northwest University. We had many activities to help people make new friends and reconnect with past ones.
While working at my desk on Monday, I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, go for a walk and find out who's new. So I closed my computer, got up from my desk and went out looking for people. I came across a mom who spent two extra days on campus saying goodbye to her daughter because she is struggling with her transition to college. I passed some students with earbuds in their ears and their heads down, and for those people, I offered an extra loud, "I'm so glad you are here!" I might have startled them a little. I said hello to a professor whom I have not seen all summer, and I saw many others as well. I walked the campus with my head up, my phone put away, and a hospitable smile on my face.
Hospitality is not only a tremendous Christian value, but it is a mark of good leadership. Paul said, overseers (leaders) are to be above reproach, faithful to their spouses, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, and hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2). In Jesus’ day, religious leaders focused on the insiders. Insiders where people of influence and means who got ahead through networking. But Jesus focused on those on the margins. If Jesus walked this campus today, I think a question he would ask himself is, “Who’s new that I should meet?” Author and poet Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. The impression we leave behind us is so important to people and is often the baseline for determining a hospitable organization. They may be hard to codify, but how we feel about something is one way of measuring credibility.
If you are a person who cares about hospitality and how people feel, start by being present. If people do not have access to you, they will never know you. Recently, I attended a large conference with over 25,000 people in attendance. The speaker for the opening session was the leader of the organization. Most leaders who lead a large organization are whisked away by bodyguards at the end of a session. This leader was at the main exit door, thanking people for coming as they left the building. Hospitable people are also strategic when they engage with people. While talking to a new person, they may ask themselves, "How can I help make this person feel better about their experience?" Often, people don't know where to go for information, they don't know who to ask, and sometimes they don't know that they need help. A hospitable person will be prepared to offer help, answer a question, and be ready to speak life into a person who may need a comforting word or encouragement.
Lord, give us strength by your Spirit to engage with those who need to be encouraged. Many are in a new environment and feel alone and unsure. I pray that a spirit of hospitality will come upon us, so we can make a difference for someone who needs to feel embraced. Amen.