My recovery from the trauma of divorce has been aided in no small way by three instances of hospitality gifted me over the course of the last year. I have wanted to publicly acknowledge this for some time, but things kept getting in the way.
The situations of which I will write have the commonality that my hosts gave me and, in two cases, the kids opportunities to escape the drama that absolutely draped the last days of my marriage. I got a window into what life could and should be less constant reminders that the good life I had known for years was no more. These getaways were well-timed reminders that a new, potentially better life was just beyond my fingertips and that all I needed to do was keep moving forward.
Another commonality was that four of my five hosts were women. That was helpful to me in a different way: After what I’ve gone through, I needed to bond with females in order to remain appreciative and respectful of what they have brought and continue to bring to my life. In my youth, I’ve observed several examples of men embittered by divorce and grown hateful of all women. I have no intention of joining their ranks. I wouldn’t want to poison my kids with sexist ideology or ruin the great relationships I enjoy with women to this day.
“Hospitality” is a word used far less often than I recall from my youth. It is defined at mirriam-webster.com as the “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests”. I don’t challenge this definition, but it seems a woeful oversimplification of the term. I would define “hospitality” this way: The temporary exposure of the human spirit, via the opening of one’s private space, to others hopefully observant enough to appreciate and benefit from the gesture.
I pride myself on being a great guest. My grandmother wouldn’t have it any other way. God forbid I should have visited someone and word got back to Mrs. Ruby Russell that I didn’t carry myself like a total gentleman. I can hear her phantom tongue-lashing bouncing around inside my skull like a .22 slug even now!
But a conditioned aversion to grandma’s 60-minute harangues isn’t my sole motivation to behave myself in the homes of others. Call me old fashioned, but I see an invitation to spend time in someone’s private domain as a profound gesture of kinship; it’s tantamount to saying “welcome to my world”.
As difficult as it is to find and connect with people who genuinely value the bonds of blood and friendship, I could never be so bold as to step into the realm of such a person and not treat her or his space as I would my own. It’s simple. And these days, I value simplicity above nearly all else.
So I have been invited into the homes of people about whom I care a great deal. What proved most important to me during some really dark days was the realization that they care about me as well. Knowing that people see me in such a positive light as to give me and my children free reign in their homes? If I never gave my personal worth a second thought, I can guess at it based on the the love I got from my hosts.