By Amy Carr
Towards whom are you most drawn to extending hospitality? Do most of us find it hard to love all of our neighbors?
When I was in second grade, I read 1 John 4:20 and felt dismay:
If you say you love God but hate your brother, you are a liar. For you cannot love God, whom you have not seen, if you hate your brother, whom you have seen.
I felt a darkening worry for my soul, for I did not always like my little brother.
It didn’t cross my mind then to ask why. I would say now it was because he didn’t seem to share my passion for words, ideas, art, the imagination.
He seemed like one of the many forces in the world that did not see what I was drawn to value, which confused and disheartened me.
And in turn, of course, I was blind to him.
That year in second grade, I realized that I cared about some human beings more than others. So I resolved to try to love some of my neighbors to whom I was not immediately drawn as a friend.
One person was a girl a year older than I whom I saw only at recess. She was withdrawn, holding back quietly from games.
I invited her to jump rope and played with her during some recesses. I remember her shy face broke once into a smile.
I did not know then that this girl was one of many children in my town who was was experiencing sexual abuse.
Our journeys crossed later when we shared another traumatic experience as adolescents.
Today this woman is something of a local saint, advocating passionately for children who face yet-incurable diseases.
Are you drawn to some human beings more than others? Who is not?
Should it trouble us?
Although my friendship base is wide and deep, I have long had a particular affinity with the brilliantly creative who struggle with mental illness.
One young man lived in my house — sometimes with a girlfriend of his — for 4 years. Two of his paintings still shine out from the walls with a rainbow’s radiance turned explosive, sideways and inside out (above).
There is a landscape of the soul where difficult people meet.
On the surface there may be disputes, but underneath there is a mutual recognition: you also sojourn here in this place I know, underneath the surface of things.
It is a place where what is not seen is fully seen and known — one dimension of the communion of saints in the making, even if all too often caught in purgatory.
But the persons with whom I sojourn there are not usually part of the everyday fabric of my life.
We are each sustained by many kinds of human interactions, from those focused around securing food and shelter together, to those who stimulate us by their very different preoccupations from our own (like my brother, whose life wisdom from working through management positions in a gold mine I cherish much — even if my spouse cherishes more their shared passion for home brewing).
There is also nothing like watching hockey to balance out a mystical streak!
Towards whom are you drawn to extend hospitality? Are there strangers to whom you are more drawn, even if you might not choose them as household members?
Do you think it is part of our vocation, or the mystery of God’s providence, that we feel drawn to some human beings more than to others?
Or are such draws at best a starting place for developing the capacity to see the image of God shining in every human being — the radiance of a rainbow in each?
What a wonderful reflection from your early life to the present day on how hospitality has been a relevant value to you. Thanks for taking the time to share your talent of putting into words this reflection.
Sister Sheila McGrath
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Thank you Amy. I would definitely answer YES to your last question. I am hopeful that our capacity to always see God in the “other” increases as we grow in age and wisdom.
S. Hutchens: Do any shareable examples come to mind–of learning to see God in those with whom you may not have identified earlier in life?