I’ll never forget 2020 for many obvious reasons—politics, a global pandemic, and schooling my kids at home, just to name a few. But one of the best things I’ll remember is how in the middle of that global pandemic, I was on the receiving end of incredible hospitality without leaving home or inviting anyone into my home.
That autumn, I had my fourth child. There are five years between him and his next oldest sibling, so it had been a while since we’d had a baby. Plus, this time I was pregnant during a pandemic, which was a strange and lonely experience. I went by myself to every doctor appointment and ultrasound. My husband would drop me off at the curb of the clinic but was not allowed to accompany me inside due to COVID restrictions. While I was in labor, every doctor, nurse, and staff member who entered my room wore a mask and full-body PPE so that only their eyes were visible. No visitors were allowed after the baby arrived, neither in our hospital room nor in our home. No family waited to welcome us home from the hospital. There was no family brunch after our baby’s (socially distanced, masked, outdoor) baptism. There were no playdates with friends. No one outside of our household held him for months.
The last pregnancy and birth I would ever experience was so lonely, so scary, and so raw with fear of the unknown and feeling out of control. It was overwhelming. Until the people in my village got down to business to care for our family.
My coworkers at (in)courage arranged a surprise online baby shower. They invited all of our writers to log into a video call that I thought was just our regular team meeting. They even coordinated with my husband and sister to receive, hide, and then bring out the gifts they’d all sent — and also to bring me dessert!
My sister threw me an outdoor “sprinkle,” a mini baby shower. Complete with my few closest family and friends, who all wore masks and gave only air hugs, there were individually packaged treats, personal serving utensils, and only one game, which we played while sitting in our chairs that were placed at least six feet apart. My best friend, who lives in another state, surprised me by driving the eight hours to attend the party!
After our baby was born, friends from my church committee delivered meals to our doorstep every Tuesday for six weeks. My mom did our laundry, washing our clothes that were covered in baby spit-up and kid dirt. My sister texted me every day for weeks, asking for pictures of the baby because she knew I wasn’t getting to show him off enough to the world. (Such a mom thing to think of, right?) Friends and family phoned, emailed, and helped the kids with their schoolwork via video calls, and countless people prayed for us.
I cried with gratitude almost every day. It wasn’t about the actual gifts or acts of service, beautiful and needed and wonderful as they were. It was about the hearts behind them.
The hospitality I was shown by my friends and family was a balm. The care and love we received was absolute hospitality, the likes of which I’d never experienced before. And frankly, it changed my view of hospitality.
Defined as “the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers,” hospitality often brings to mind images of parties, dinner around a heaping table, or coffee shared at a kitchen counter. It makes me think of holiday gatherings, family getting together to celebrate birthdays, and cheering on our favorite team with friends (and snacks!) during a football game.
Of course, none of this was possible during that season, and yet hospitality is the best description of what I was so generously given. Because my friends were empowered to be hospitable despite the strange circumstances, I was beautifully loved by my community. And because of their hospitality, when I look back I don’t remember a time of loneliness and fear. I remember a time of friendship, home, and love.
When we love others well, we’re empowered to share hospitality in any way we can, blessing both the giver and the receiver.
Lord, may I give — and receive — generous hospitality. Urge me to go out of my way to bless others, and help me to both offer and accept hospitality in all its forms. Give me eyes to see who needs it, and provide me with the means to be hospitable. Amen.