It was cold and windy last Tuesday morning when I went to vote. My polling precinct is at Berkley Lake Elementary School about two 2 miles from my house.
When I arrived about 8:00 AM there was along line of cars trying to get into the parking lot from both directions. People like me who had come to vote added to the normal heavy traffic of parents and school buses bringing children to school.
It did not really take that long to find a parking space. Nevertheless I was a bit irritated that I had to cope with this added frustration at the beginning of my day. As I approached the entrance to the school, I was met by several smiling teachers welcoming me and the incoming students with an enthusiastic greeting and smile. My attitude changed immediately.
Recently I was in a department store looking for a particular item but could not find it. When I asked a store employee he said, "Come with me and I'll show you where to find it." In similar circumstances I have often experienced "customer no-service" so the helpfulness of this clerk was a pleasant surprise.
If you know me or read this column regularly, you are probably aware that I am a baseball fan. I enjoy watching my favorite Atlanta Braves play (see you at Spring Training this weekend). Fans attending games in Atlanta are greeted warmly by stadium employees that welcome you to Turner Field and thank you for coming when you leave. It makes you feel like they are really glad you came.
One of my favorite fast food restaurants (my apologies to Truett Cathey-he calls it "good food quick") is Chic-Fil-A. Their chicken sandwich cannot be beat, but it is the attitude of the staff at every location that is really unrivaled. They seem always ready and willing to serve you and respond to every request with "My pleasure."
What does all this have to do with you and me? I am glad you asked. They are reminders to practice hospitality. Warmth, kindness, and generosity are attributes to cultivate and demonstrate.
Otis T. McMillan, director of the Bureau of Evangelism of the AME Zion Church, Charlotte, North Carolina, says that "genuine hospitality has a way of uniting society, creating new bonds of interest and affection as we show kindness."
United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase has identified five practices of fruitful congregations. One of these is what he calls "radical hospitality." He says, "Radical hospitality means 'drastically different from ordinary practice outside the norm,' that exceed expectations, and so it produces practices that go the second mile, that take welcoming the stranger to the max" (Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, Abingdon Press).
The Apostle Paul counsels the Christians in Rome about what it means to put love into action. In the middle of those instructions he says, "Practice hospitality."
Bishop Schnase, Mr. McMillan, and Paul are speaking to the way churches should act, but their suggestions equally apply to the conduct of individual Christians in day to day living. For that matter this principle of practicing hospitality is sound counsel for all persons.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," March 12, 2012. North Georgia Conference, United Methodist Church.]