The Faces in the Spaces
BY JUSTIN WHITE | July 18, 2022
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.
To me radical hospitality is recognizing God within ourselves and recognizing the God who is the face and spirit of the other. As Justine points out it is a matter of justice to do so. After Church on Sunday are we hospitable to the priest who gave us his thoughts and prayers on the Gospel? Are we hospitable to the people who just prayed with us? Are we hospitable to the person at work? Are we hospitable to our family members and give our children a blessing before they start their day? These might be considred small things but to each person addressed it is a big thing, it is the buildup of justice in our communities Are we hospitable to people protesting a cause that we might not agree with?. I am the instrument of God on this earth to help each person realize the Kingdom the best way they can. This week as Justine suggests we can work on that hospitality for each and every prson we encounter.
Human beings are made in the image and likeness of the divine – declare Scriptures. Recognition of the presence of the other, brings about a win-win situation. It is a small exercise in ‘doing dignity’.
Hospitality is about meeting and welcoming the other as we are. Showing hospitality is grace manifest. I was graced with the presence of God, when a homeless person welcomed me into her home without walls – her piece of pavement on the street. I was honoured when a traveller accepted my invitation to stay for a meal and a night, when all I had to offer him was nettle soup. He acted as Jesus would and blessed the food, so that my children thought they were eating popcorn!