I've written before that I believe most people can get along with each other when we believe there is enough for everyone.
Here, I am not talking only about enough food and water, but rather having an attitude of abundance -- a belief that God will provide -- rather than an attitude of scarcity -- a belief that I must get all that I can even at the expense of others.
I've witnessed attitudes of abundance when there were clearly scarce resources and attitudes of scarcity when there were clearly abundant resources.
It's true nations do not always get along. It's true that poorly practiced religion can lead to violence and hatred. It's also true there are times when, for the sake of our own physical, emotional, or spiritual health we must resist or withdraw from others.
But such withdrawal should not be the default or starting point when we have an attitude of abundance and care for others.
One of the best expressions of having an attitude of abundance in all areas of life is the gift of hospitality. It's always slightly risky to be hospitable because it requires opening our lives and actions to others in a way that may make us vulnerable to advantage being taken. It's a tricky balance to maintain an open outlook on life and guard the heart.
There are opportunities to practice hospitality every day toward all those who come into our immediate vicinity. When I live with an attitude of abundance as it relates to time, I can be more courteous and patient with others. I might even have an opportunity to make things happen more quickly and pleasantly with an attitude of hospitality.
With the right attitude I can take a problem-solving approach to conflict rather than frustration or anger. I can make space to hear what others are saying and take time to frame what I want to say to address the issue rather than personalize it. An attitude of scarcity will often see only one solution to a problem with all others seen as opposition.
To add some clarity, let me quote Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) from his book "Reaching Out," nearly old enough to be called a classic.
"Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines."
It is one of the great failings of our current social dialogue that we communicate mostly to change or condemn. Meaning if you don't change, then damn you. It's a way of communicating that closes others out and pushes people further apart. To be open is seen as somehow not committed to the cause or weak. It's showing up ever more in our manipulation of the court system.
It's also one of the great failings of religion when poorly practiced. There are many practitioners of Christianity -- and Christianity is not the only offender here -- who bar the gates of heaven rather than open the space of hospitality. Closing off hospitality to others is a reaction of fear and scarcity. It's a response of protecting what we know, whether that is something that needs to be protected or not.
We need homes that are open spaces. We need public meetings that are open spaces. We need dialogue that opens communication rather than closing. We are all on the same planet and we all have a stake in its future. We need each other. We need people walking around with an attitude of abundance of time, patience, and kindness.
Perhaps we should be less interested in changing each other, which we can't do anyway, and more interested in knowing each other. In which case, change will happen.
Here is a reminder from the apostle Paul for us to remember that others have made space for us: "So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." (Eph. 2:19, RSV).
And this well-known encouragement from Hebrews 13:2, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Make space for hospitality.
Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville, Kentucky. You may contact him via email at email@example.com.