Sustainable hospitality hums with the rhythm of sound and silence. Without silence, sound would grate on our nerves, rather than soothe our souls. Some days, weeks, months, we play a single note: perhaps all we can can muster is a friendly “hello” or a smile at a stranger. Sometimes we play chords: we host neighborhood soup nights, book clubs, or weekly cookouts. Other days, we play a duet or even an orchestra as we join others in our efforts to host block parties or large events.
Without the rest – the slowing and pauses – we play a muddled and chaotic melody.
Rhythms of rest allow us to play our music of connection during all the other times.
A couple of years ago, I planned to host a Christmas party soon after we moved from Chicago to Colorado. At the time, I had a twelve-month-old and three-year-old. A new friend from church invited us to a Christmas party at her home, and I thought oh good, someone from church is hosting a party, so that means I don’t have to. I confessed that thought to her when we arrived at her home that was bursting with people, holiday fare, and a table for kids to decorate Christmas cookies. She looked at me hard and said, “I did not do these kinds of parties when I had kids as little as yours. Give yourself a break. Your time will come.”
Jesus often escaped to the quietness of the dark in order to seek refreshment in the shadows. Time in solitude provided a social reset button that fueled him to spend time with people for the remainder of the day. In stillness, we gather strength. In quiet, we regenerate. And in lying down, we lean our ears to the ground and remember we are, after all, just dust.
In my twenties and early thirties before I was married, I would schedule coffee dates and meals in my home and social activities nearly every day for two weeks. I’d inevitably burn out and then seclude myself at home for another two weeks, until I was desperate for human connection again. And the I’d do it all over again. I found a rhythm of noise interspersed with silences.
We can’t practice hospitality when we’re depleted. When sleep eludes us, sicknesses attack, or work deadlines linger, the last thing we want is to invite. And here’s what I’m learning: that’s okay. It’s okay to catch our breath. It’s okay to not say yes to every opportunity to build community if we can’t bring our whole selves to those relationships. And it’s okay to hunker down at home for a while if it means we will have more energy for hospitality later on.
Sometimes the simplest way to ensure we have the capacity for hospitality is to take a nap. We go to bed early or devour a novel or spend five minutes in silence or simply walk in nature. We rejuvenate. And after some days or weeks, perhaps we’ll wake up one morning and think, I’d love to connect with so-and-so. I wonder if they’re free…?
Now that I am married with young children, my rhythm sounds different than it did when I was single, but it’s still made up of the same basic theory: invite, accept invitations, and rest. And when we’re ready, we do it all over again.
Community is born out of rightly-timed pauses in the music of life. Without rest, we can’t carry the mantle of welcome very far.
. . .
Leslie Verner is a goer learning how to stay. Other cultures, spicy food, deep conversation, running, and sunshine feed her soul. She has traveled widely and spent five years in China before returning to the U.S. to marry a theatre actor. A former middle school teacher with a master’s in Intercultural Studies, she now chases three children, writes before dawn, and reads too many books at once. Leslie writes about faith, justice, family, and cross-cultural issues at scrapingraisins.com and in her monthly newsletter. She is also the author of Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness.