When I was about 13 years old, my family took a vacation to Upstate New York. We were in an area called the Finger Lakes area. It is so named because of a group of lakes that, from above, look like fingers on a hand.
We were your typical tourists in a small town, enjoying small shops and local cuisine. As we were about to pile back into our car, an elderly gentleman approached us. “What part of Indiana are you from?” He had seen our license plate and wanted to know.
My home town is a small place. Most people have never heard of it. So, my dad’s first reply was “Northwest Indiana.”
“Oh, what town.”
“I grew up in Lowell!”
Before long, our family was back out on the sidewalk, visiting with the gentleman. I know he knew several folks who still lived in Lowell, but the one who stuck out most was our barber, Babe Tanner. It turned out that the two had grown up together as close friends.
Before we knew it, we were guests in the home of this gentleman and his wife. We visited about Lowell, the man and his wife telling stories from the past, and my parents bringing the couple up to date on what was going on at the time.
I recall the couple inviting our family to spend the night. My brother and I were excited at the prospect. After all, this had been like finding a set of long-lost grandparents. Mom and Dad thanked the couple for their hospitality, but declined, explaining that we were expected in another city the next day.
As we left that couple’s home in that town so far from home, we all felt a sense of peace. There is something about hospitality that puts people at ease. It takes strangers and turns them into friends. Hospitality brings people together, making them feel both welcomed and honored.
Our trip continued. We saw many sights, even Niagara Falls. Yet, if you ever asked me about the thing that stood out most on that trip, I would tell you it was our visit to that couple’s home.
Last night I attended a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous that I had never before attended. There was a uniqueness about the meeting that was new to me. An atmosphere in the room I hadn’t often experienced at NA meetings: a mix of hospitality and lightheartedness!
The meeting chair had done a wonderful job of setting the mood. He greeted each person as they arrived, and there were a lot of them. Over thirty in total.
When I arrived I was greeted warmly, and asked if I was from out of town. More hugs and more small talk before the meeting started made me feel truly welcomed. Truly at home.
I’m in a small college town in Kansas. Another business trip. The meeting topic was the chapter out of the NA Basic Text entitled “Why Are We Here?” Just a few paragraphs were read, and then the floor was opened to discussion.
What a perfect topic for that meeting. People shared about all sorts of reasons why they had come into the rooms of NA, and what keeps motivating them to come back. They shared about their frustrations over relapse. They also shared about victories that were attributable to the changes recovery has brought to their lives.
When my turn to share came, I spoke of my gratitude for the meeting. I was honest about the loneliness of business travel, and how vital meeting attendance is to me, especially when traveling alone.
After the meeting I hung around as a gentleman near my age spoke to me about his new job, one that requires travel. I was able to offer some encouragement to him regarding my experiences with traveling and staying clean.
As I finally pulled away from the meeting place, I experienced a strange yet comfortable feeling. I felt as though I had been a welcomed guest in someone else’s home. I had experienced true hospitality.
It was like being back in that couple’s home so many years ago. I was the wayfaring stranger, taken in by people who truly cared.
Back at my hotel room, I pulled out the meeting list they had given to me. It was covered all over with the phone numbers of men who had been in attendance. As I studied that list, I could remember what each had shared. I grew stronger, even alone in my room, knowing that if I needed someone to talk to, I would find help on that list.
It is appropriate that my principle for today would be honesty. The hospitality I experienced last night made me stop and think. Am I hospitable? Do I make people feel welcome? Do I help set the tone for my encounters with other people?
The answer to these questions is that I’m working on it. Not perfect, but a work in progress.
I’m in the same town again tonight. I’m looking forward to tonight’s meeting. I’ll get there early and visit with my new friends. I’ll also take time to share about how their hospitality affected me.
The message of Narcotics Anonymous is that an addict, any addict, can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live. I’m grateful that hospitality is a part of this new way of life. I never have to be alone again.
Have a remarkable day!