The Shift in Hospitality

Written by Randy Evans of Walking Tall Wilmington


Since Walking Tall currently does not have a building, we function primarily
on a mobile level. We highly depend on the surrounding community to
extend different forms of hospitality toward us. One of these acts of
hospitality is letting us use their buildings and we are extremely grateful
they share their space with us. Nonetheless, sometimes we fall short and
must come up with Plan B. This very scenario happened when we decided
to create a shelter to get the most vulnerable out of the bitter cold. We
looked throughout the city, trying to find a place to house those with zero
means, and we encountered rock block after roadblock. The standard
answer we received was that we were a liability to the person or the
organization. Liability is defined as, “the state of being responsible for
something, especially by law.” I believe this is what people are referring to
when they say, “That would be a liability.” However, there is a secondary
definition that seems more appropriate in this situation: “a person or thing
whose presence or behavior is likely to cause embarrassment or put one at
a disadvantage.” This is the definition I believe most people are thinking,
especially in regard to poverty-stricken individuals. In other words, the
“liability” of hosting someone experiencing poverty during the cold weather
could be a cause for social embarrassment or inconvenience someone by
disrupting their routine. When we realized we were running out of time, we
shifted our mindset to radical hospitality and opened our home to our
friends in need. My wife and I hosted 25-30 individuals experiencing
poverty during the cold snaps. We did this twice, during the first and third
weeks of January.

We made an easy decision to shelter our friends and not just give them a
roof over their head. We extended an attitude of welcome and abundance,
which is radical hospitality. The moment they stepped through the door they
became family, not a liability. We offered them showers, meals, laundry
services, and a change of pace from the world they knew. We extended to
them the same advantages we have without thinking twice about it. The
attitude that one should be grateful solely because they are in poverty was
nowhere to be found. We set the table, pulled out the chairs for them, and

we simply took our rightful place on the floor. Hospitality spawned from
meeting an urgent need, but it became so much more. You see, being able
to deconstruct our mindset and destroy the barriers that separate us comes
from the innermost need to connect: radical hospitality does this. Through
this understanding, we start to cultivate interpersonal relationships that give
us the access to speak truth, to offer safe spaces for healing; but to do this
we must welcome the stranger with open arms. This means offering more
than the status quo in regard to charity. Would you prepare a meal for your
friends made of four-year-old canned garbanzo beans, cranberry sauce,
and pumpkin pie filling – like what most people donate to the food bank –
and expect them to be grateful? What sort of message would that convey?
We are looking into 2018 wondering how we can develop these
relationships, show radical hospitality, embrace a culture of community, and
family. Here at Walking Tall Wilmington, we have decided to live within the
tension of real community and challenge the preconceived notions of
society. This shift is not easy, for it will test every aspect of your being,
essentially rewiring the way you think, which changes the way you act,
which changes the way you view the world. We’re not asking everyone to
invite 30 individuals in poverty into your house; but we are asking you to go
above and beyond the basic level of giving, by offering your best to those
who expect the least. What does radical hospitality look like in your neck of
the woods?

One of the ways you can engage in radical hospitality is by joining us in
creating a community garden we named, “The Garden of Eaten.” We highly
believe in the idea of food justice, offering everyone homegrown fruits and
vegetables, instead of “third me downs.” We also plan to have chickens
and honey bees. The garden will offer everyone a place to engage with the
earth, find well-deserved rest, and more importantly, create a sacred space
for healing, by planting the seeds for community. This is a simple and
tangible way to get involved with Walking Tall. We look forward to engaging
with all of you in the following months.

“Whatever may be the tensions and the stresses of a particular day, there
is always lurking close at hand the trailing beauty of forgotten joy or
unremembered peace.”

― Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart


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