I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Therese Pekala’s reflection “Hospitality: A Graceful Art.”
On the exterior of my front door reads a sign, “My dog is my door bell.” It may appear to be a warning and unhospitable until you realize the dog is a friendly fifteen year old golden retriever named Maisy. She is the official greeter. If dogs are like their master, then Maisy and I are symbiotic souls when it comes to welcoming those who appear at our door.
I open my home with greetings of: “Come in; Have a seat; Would you like something to drink?” and more importantly, I open my listening heart. A shared word of comfort or gratitude, a hardy laugh, an empathetic smile, and an enveloping hug, these are the gestures of hospitality. It is soul touching soul, however, short or small the greeting. Leaving a human connection that presence is indeed a gift from the heart. There is an expansion of joy with each encounter.
How did I learn to be welcoming to others? It began with observing my parents who opened their home and hearts to those in need of a welcomed space. It was not uncommon for my mother to invite strangers to our holiday dinners, those without family near, like a military soldier or someone disconnected from family, an elder who lived alone. It was an adventure not knowing who would be at our table; a welcomed blessing with many a story to be told. Truly a Christ like exchange between souls.
I realized as time went by that the first person I had to learn to welcome was Me! This is not an easy task to welcome my failures, my shadows, and the years of falsely believing I am not enough. As I ground in Spirit, and treat myself with kindness and generosity, it becomes the key to unlocking the flow of acceptance, love, and openness to another.
However, there are times when it is a challenge to demonstrate hospitality when the person is someone who has hurt me or is unleashing unresolved anger. Then being welcoming requires an extra dose of Divine intervention: “Dear God help me to be kind.” With these encounters, though my blood may be rushing to my head, and my body wants to run away, I take a deep breath and invite the calming presence of Spirit.
I step back and choose to act from a place of grace. I quiet the voices that whisper, “Don’t give them the time of day. Tell them to take a hike”. I speak to those inner childlike defenses, “I can handle this. Greet them, and be cordial, I got this.” I will not be baited into responding with like aggressive feelings. I look for the Divine spark, the piece of humanity that has somehow been buried alive in this person, and I respond with an understanding heart. It is not easy to maintain my integrity in the midst of another’s chaos. Welcoming another’s pain into my essence is a sacrifice of love and mercy.
As the years pass, I now realize that the degree of my hospitability, is the degree of the inner work that I do. Prayer, meditation, journaling, mindfulness are all instruments that allow me to stay connected with my Divine Essence. Being grounded to the Source of One is the gift that keeps on giving; this is where my spiritual energy maintains my ability to live with open hands and heart. A beautiful cycle of unconditional love from the Divine, to me, to you, to us, to all. Hospitality is a grace filled art, and one that is part of my daily living, prayer practice; my calling as a Monk in this beautiful, messy world. And of course, I do have my dog, Maisy, to remind me of the joy of welcoming!
Therese Pekala, is a retired social worker and educator, residing in Eugene, Oregon. She loves walking her dog, Maisy, in the tree lined hills where the wild turkeys and deer live. Therese enjoys the company of friends and family both near and far. Her creative activities are writing poetry and stories, and gardening. Also, she thrives on reading spiritual works from the mystics.