Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hospitality Paid Forward

He pulled up in a faded blue Taurus, just a few minutes past noon.  A tall guy, wearing well-worn coveralls, he marched purposefully across the gravel lot and towards the entrance of my office.

Ah, I thought.  I knew the conversation we were about to have, and I was not disappointed.

I welcomed him in, and he pulled up a chair, and was there any way I could help a man out, I mean, here it was, right before Thanksgiving and all.  I talked to him a little bit about the church, and about our support of a nearby food pantry.  But that wasn't what he wanted.

He was on the road, and just about out of gas, and needed to get to where his ex and his kids were.  Funny, how those cars always run out of gas right as they arrive at the church.  I've done this dance before, and know the steps.  So I told him, sure, I'd be happy to spot you a couple or three gallons of gas to help you get where you're going.  Cash I will not give, because that just as easily feeds demons, but gas?  Or food?  Yeah, that'll happen.

He smiled at that, and we shot the breeze for a while, about cars and life, about back problems and what an annoyance they are as you got older.  When the time came, I told him to meet me at the gas station on the corner, and I'd drop the gas in myself.  He offered me a ride, but it's just yards away, so I declined.

We met up there, and I put in a few gallons, enough to get him where he said he was going if  1) that Taurus gets the mileage I think it does and 2) he was actually going there.  He thanked me, we shook hands, wished each other a happy Thanksgiving, and he was off.  Likely to another church, if I know the drill.  Didn't stop me from wishing him well, and meaning it.

I'll often struggle with the purpose of church buildings, why we bother with them given what a pain in the tuchus they tend to be.  They can feel like energy sinks, distractions, and a bother...particularly if they're almost a hundred and ninety years old with an insulation R-value equivalent to a sky-clad Wiccan priestess at winter solstice.

But with Thanksgiving right on the edge of tomorrow, what was our old building doing?  It was a signpost.  It was a marker, a place set aside.  It provided an opportunity to give a little bit of welcome, a place where a stranger in need...and yeah, he was in need...could come and receive a little bit of hospitality.

And what is hospitality, but thanksgiving paid forward?