November 2017

Surprised by Hospitality

It was 1972. George McGovern was running for President against Richard Nixon. My best friend Elaine had convinced me to join her in working on the campaign. We became weekend foot soldiers for Democratic machine operations in southern Connecticut cities and towns.

One Saturday in late October we arrived in Wallingford by bus. We were supplied with doughnuts and coffee, maps, lists of households, campaign literature, and instructions: “Don’t mention McGovern. Just remind them to vote the Democratic ticket.” It was cold, lonely work, trudging up and down unfamiliar streets. Most often, there was no response to a ring or knock. I would stuff a leaflet in the door, and look for the next house. Occasionally someone would open the door and take the leaflet; a few said thank you.

It was late afternoon, near dark. I was getting anxious. I was tired and cold, ringing the bell on yet another doorstep. An African American man opened the door and stood before me, his wife behind him. “I’m canvassing for the Democrats,” I began. “That’s wonderful, dear,” the wife said. “Come in.”

They ushered me to the living room and she hurried off to heat some cocoa. There was a framed picture of their son, in uniform, on a shelf. On the wall was a picture of Martin Luther King Jr., and another of John Kennedy, with “Ask not what your country can do for you” inscribed beneath it. “The first time I voted it was for Franklin Roosevelt,” the husband said. I sipped my cocoa, and marveled. I hope they knew how grateful I was.

And humbled. They can’t possibly have known how humbled I was – by their generosity to me, by their faith in their country, by their patriotism.

Have you ever received an unexpected gift of hospitality?

November brings us Thanksgiving, so it seemed appropriate to choose hospitality as this month’s theme. Kim Wolfson has collected stories from refugees who have come to Northampton in the last year, stories she will share in a service at the end of November. Our Circle of Care is discerning what work it should be doing, while we wait to see if any more refugees will be allowed to settle here. And we are considering ways to support undocumented immigrants who are living in fear of having their families torn apart.

What does hospitality mean to you? How is providing hospitality an act of faith, and of love?

I look forward to reflecting with you on these questions. I am grateful for all the ways the members of this community show hospitality to one another, and grateful to be your minister.Janets signature