Attempting Hospitality in High School
Picture this. I was a senior in high school, and I was on my way home from a dance class on a late Thursday night. As I was about to pull into the gate of the subdivision that I lived in, I saw what looked like a large trash bag in the ditch on the side of the road. Moving closer to the gate, I quickly realized that it was not a trash bag but a man laying in the ditch. I was terrified, scared, and upset. Why was this guy laying in the ditch, and why hasn’t anyone checked on him?
Immediately, I stopped at the guard shack, and I told the security guard that there was a man laying in the ditch about fifteen feet from the guard shack. The guard told me that he could not check on him nor could he ask someone else to check on him because it was outside the gate. What?! I was furious! This man was laying in the ditch, in the grass that our subdivision pays someone to mow!
Being a seventeen-year-old girl, I knew I couldn’t go back to the man and ask him if he was okay. But. I had to do something. I called my parents as I drove to my house and told them to be outside when I got home because they needed to check on this man. They agreed, and I rushed home. I switched to the backseat as my dad quickly drove back to the entrance of our subdivision. When we got there, the man, who was actually a teenage boy had gotten up and was walking away from the gate. Because he had been laying in the ditch, my parents went to check on him. It turns out he had run away from home and was about to head back to his house. He was just tired from walking and decided to rest. After he had refused a ride from us, my dad soon became angry as well. It was a kid on the side of the road, and the guard had refused to check on him! My dad stopped by the guard shack and asked why the guard would not even check on him; he was literally on the grass that they mow. The guard had said that since the boy was outside the gate, the boy was not his problem. Even after realizing that it was a kid, the guard had no guilt because he was simply doing his job.
Needless to say, we drove home upset, upset because of the guard’s unwillingness to help, even after realizing who it was, and upset because we were not able to help the young boy.
Looking back on this incident in light of hospitality, I realized four things:
- Boundaries are important, and you can’t always be the superhero.
If this boy would have been a man, I could have been in trouble had I stopped on my own. Knowing when you do not have the capacity to help those in need is important. You can’t do everything. However, you can do something. If you see someone in need and cannot help but know someone who could, that is doing something, and that is enough. I used to think I could be the one to save the world. Then I realized that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Ok, so maybe this is taken a little out of context, but you and I cannot save the world even if we attempted to do everything, and it is not our job to do it. We are not called to literally be Jesus, but we are called to be members of the body of Christ. Hence, as I live out my unique and specific call, when I see a need, I need to be mindful of the limitations of my gifts and aware of others better suited to meet the need.
- However, boundaries can and, frankly, should be broken (in certain circumstances).
Could that guard have easily taken ten steps away from his shack for one minute to see if the boy needed help? Absolutely. Would a boundary have been crossed and a rule broken? Probably. However, if it were someone in distress, the guard would have had the necessary resources to get the person in the ditch some help.
Sometimes, it is okay to break the rules to help your neighbor, but this is a point that I do not have time to cover right now. We will go back to this topic later.
- Neighbors may be on the lawn that you mow.
There are neighbors all around us, literally and metaphorically. They come in the form of literal next door neighbors, classmates, co-workers, and, more often than not, people on the side of the road. They are easy to spot if you are looking for them, but they are too easy to miss if you are not aware of your surroundings or not open to seeing the needs of others.
- Hospitality is messy.
The results are not always going to be exactly what you had hoped. I thought we were going to be saving someone’s life that night, and I thought that the guard would have stepped in to help. However, neither of those things happened, and that is okay. In doing hospitality, you may never see the results of your openness to love your neighbor, of the tangible work that you did to help someone. When we step out in love, though, we allow for the Holy Spirit to work through us to start a work in someone else. We allow love to overflow from our hearts to the hearts of strangers, turning strangers into neighbors.
From an open table,