It was a day of inconveniences, the kind where you wonder if you’ll be able to get it all done.
Since I was driving out of town the next day, taking my car to the shop for its past due oil change was top priority. The wait was hours long without an appointment (what? they take appointments?!), and I could’ve kicked myself for not bringing work along, or better yet, a book from my never shrinking stack. I called my son to see if he could leave his job to come and get me. He said yes, but even his time was limited, and he didn’t have the extra minutes to run by the grocery store on the way home so I could grab something to cook for dinner.
Influenced by both our year living in Germany (where we biked or walked everywhere) and my husband’s wellness plan at work (that pays us to track health and fitness), I made the decision to have him drop me at Publix and I’d walk home.
While I had mentally calculated the distance between home and Publix – a little more than a mile – I hadn’t factored in July’s stifling heat and humidity. Mylanta, summertime in middle Georgia is a big, fat, steamy sauna.
I crossed the street into my neighborhood, sweat-drenched and questioning my sanity. It had seemed like such a good idea at the time, especially if I wanted to have dinner ready before midnight. Now, I would’ve been happy to troll the pantry and make a meal out of Cream of Mushroom Soup and Ritz Crackers–aren’t they the base of every good casserole, anyway?
About that time I sensed a car approaching from behind, slowing down beside me. I kept a confident and determined stride, staring straight ahead and painted a fiercely intimidating expression on my face (a surefire method for disarming potential kidnappers and murderers). I tried to act like I didn’t notice them…
Which is next to impossible when the window rolls down and you hear a grandmotherly voice call out, “Honey, would you like a ride?”
I turned to my left to see two very senior-to-me citizens, the wife behind the wheel, her husband, a silent partner-in-crime. I shake my head No and say, “Oh, I’m fine…thank you” but I’m guessing the obvious, impending heatstroke belies my words.
She pressed. “I saw you crossing the street with groceries and I knew you weren’t walking for exercise IT’S TOO HOT FOR ANYONE TO BE OUT HERE WALKING…” and she assured me We’re safe! I decided I could take both of them if necessary–I was pretty sure I could knock ’em out with my bag of frozen chicken before they could pull a trigger or wield a knife.
She was a chatty one, likable in an instant. “We’re Ann and Walt Fellows*,” she began. “I saw you walking and asked Walt if we should offer you a ride, and he said Of course, but you need to be the one to ask ’cause a man might scare her.” I shuffled his sports jacket, a stack of papers, and an iPad to the other side of the back passenger seat, and Ann cranked up the A/C (Hallelujah!). In less than a mile, I learned who they were coming to visit, all the people they knew in the neighborhood, the ages and whereabouts of nieces and nephews, and connections we had in North Carolina and Tennessee.
Amazing, the amount of ground you can cover when you’re going 15mph.
We reached my house all too soon, and Walt chuckled when Ann suggested I tell my husband “two Fellows gave you a ride home today.” Oh, these two are rascals…definitely my kind of people.
As they pulled away from the curb I practically bounced up the stairs to my front door, my heart so very happy from our few minutes together. It occurred to me that I typically limit the definition of hospitality to entertaining people in our home, but what these two strangers taught me is that hospitality can be as much about being as it can be about doing. Dictionary.com defines hospitality as
The Fellows lived the definition of hospitality, and nothing they did had anything to do with their house or food or entertaining me. They were warm and friendly, but beyond that, they identified a need and went out of their way to meet it. They could have easily passed me by (other cars sure did, and I didn’t think twice about it). Instead, they redefined hospitality to me by caring more about others – me! – and were willing to inconvenience themselves.
There’s this beautiful passage in Romans 12 that describes an authentic faith and what love looks like. Included in the calls to action? Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (vs 13). The dictionary definition of “practice” is
What I saw in the Fellows is an example of what it must look like when people practice hospitality on a regular basis. Offering me a ride wasn’t anything special to them, but as a recipient of their random act of kindness, my view of hospitality was expanded.
I want to practice hospitality in my home, but I also want to notice others in need and allow my plans to be interrupted to help them out. Sometimes those opportunities come veiled in a storm – a one-two punch in hurricanes Harvey last week and Irma, soon to arrive – but if practicing hospitality becomes our modus operandi and we’re paying attention to the people all around us, we might just become the sort of fellow who’ll pick up a sweaty stranger on the side of the road.
* first names changed