We all have been there before—guests are coming over and we scramble to get the space ready. Regardless of if it’s family coming for dinner, friends coming over for karaoke night, or you’re throwing a birthday party for your little one—much preparation goes into hosting. Add in specific cultural norms and joys, personal preferences, and sensibilities—and the levels of preparing the space can know no bounds. However, should it be this way? I laugh out loud at social media posts that make fun of parents expecting guests to run their fingers along the baseboards to inspect for dust.
What happens when the space takes precedence over the people there?
What happens when we try to take control instead of allowing Grace to permeate the space?
What happens when our efforts to create a hospitable space becomes, consciously or unconsciously, performative, laden with our own anxieties, our biases?
Now replace the word “space” in those three questions with “justice” or “equity.”
Something is lost when the creation and enactment of programs, policies, initiatives, and laws are out of touch with the realities of those they are meant to serve. People can become invisible, wisdom can be ignored, and harm can be levied.
As Abraham waited graciously on his guests, they asked “where is your wife?” I imagine Jesus gesturing towards Mary as he said, “Mary has chosen the better and it will not be taken from her.” These women, their current and future contributions, their hopes, their fears…their mere presence and dignity were specifically recognized in the space. We are called to do the same and we are called to recognize when we have failed.
As we continue to work for justice, offer up prayers, develop programs, create initiatives, and pass laws—let’s strive to invite the Spirit to guide us to look around the spaces that we are preparing in order not to lose sight of true hospitality.
Justin T. White is a middle school counselor, admissions associate, and clubs and activities coordinator at Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland.