Hospitality

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Several words are tangled in the etymology  of the word, “hospitality.” It is derived from the Latin hospes, giving us the words host, hospice, hospital, hostel, and hotel, and is therefore connected to the specific metonymies of guest, stranger, and welcome, and to images of lodging and respite where one’s needs are met with attentive compassion.

When our bodies serve as disease vectors harboring bacteria, parasites, and viruses capable of killing us, we are scientifically termed “hosts,” despite our inclination to close the door to these specific visitors. Sometimes, closing the door is the intelligent choice.

But, beyond the physical, we offer shelter to the thoughts and feelings that storm or gently cross the threshold of our hearts and spirits. We are the gatekeepers of our response to each encounter, and we must be mindful of our choices, always.

It is human, healthy, proper, and perfectly acceptable to feel fear, anger, sorrow, and despair. It is important to feel the full and sacred spectrum of what it means to be human. We must honor our abilities to recognize loss, our capacity for empathy, our yearning for community. We must mourn our losses, and they are staggering. It is our responsibility to listen to these feelings, to comfort, and to heal them. Over and over.

And it is also our deeply human responsibility to fashion and live out responses that honor our uniquely human capacity for hope, love, and creativity.

This current virus has already begun its horrifying march of destruction through the earth’s people; we do not have to also grant it the power to destroy our humanity, our courage, our impulse to love, our need to connect with and support each other. Rather, let us widen the doors of our hearts to hold this suffering, to look for ways to offer blessing, and to seek the opportunities to create love that meet us every moment, always. Our human longing to offer and receive hospitality bids us to open the door.

My husband and I have a front door that’s always open to guests. Our commitment to our eight 4-leggeds comes with the sacrifice of frequent journeys far from home to vacation and connect with loved ones. Thankfully, friends and family drop in, stop over, and come by with a frequency that hallows our home and keeps the energy merry. We mourn the loss of these other voices, these kindred spirits, these life-giving companions on our journey. As with all of us these days, no one is knocking at the door, no bells are announcing imminent embrace.

The absence of these visitors and its dreadful source are deeply saddening and fearful. We become frozen in moments robbed of hope.

And then, we go for a walk and see the signs of spring, everywhere, telling us the world can heal. We can practice the earth’s hospitality of welcoming life, of nurturing hope, of becoming the safe harbor of love. 

This week, a pair of finches has built its nest over the light that welcomes guests to our front door. Already, 5 delicate eggs, each a miracle, are warmed by their mother. Life wins, dear friends. Life always wins. Welcome it. Celebrate its renewal. We must never, ever, close the door of our heart to the possibility of guests–human, winged, feathered, scaled, many or few-legged, dreamt, or imagined–who will entertain us, like angels, with blessing.

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are an Easter people and hallelujah is our song. ~ Pope John Paul II

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13 thoughts on “Hospitality

  1. I really loved your ”Corona poem”. I just wanted to ask whether I could print it out in a short film for my Facebook page, with some of my drone video footage from my home town? It’s not commercial and of course you will get credit for it. Take a look at my short videos, search for “Västerås från ovan” (Västerås from above, Swedish) on Facebook! Sorry for writing here, I searched for a mail address but couldn’t find it. Thanks in advance and keep up your important work as well as writing!

    1. Please use “In the Time of Pandemic” in the healing way you offer, and thank you for both requesting and for assuring me this is not for commercial use. Be safe and well. Gentle peace.

  2. Hi Kitty. I am a therapist who works from a “spirit level” and I am being called to write strategies and share messages of healing for healthcare providers and childcare providers (teachers and parents). I’m using power points with messages and images and wondering if you Would you permit my writing partner and I to share your material with credit to you and of course a link to your blog.
    Sending gratitude for your daily sharing of your light and love. Reading the writings is providing me with grounding, helping guide my intention of “root to rise”, and is catalyzing my writing to support others in my community.

    1. By all means, Jill; if this is commercial-free (and it sounds like it is), please use it in your very important work, and thank you for asking. I appreciate that you will be assigning me credit, and providing the link to my work.

      Be safe and well, Jill. Gentle peace.

  3. So true – and so beautifully expressed – thank you again Kitty – i am starting my day with renewed hope …

    1. You deserve to begin with hope, Antoinette, and I am so happy my words could help! I hope it is a peaceful and strengthening day for you. Be well. Kitty

  4. Hello Kitty, You’re reflections have been thought provoking, encouraging and comforting. They have led me to think more deeply about relationships and my place in this life. Thank you. I would recommend this wonderful film which echoes some of your thoughts on dying. It is free on the National Film Board website (Canadian) https://www.nfb.ca/film/griefwalker/. You could also check out the website orphanwisdom.com Stephen Jenkinson also speaks very well on the subject of living deeply and dying well. Thank you again

  5. Yes, thank you so much! I became familiar with Jenkinson some years ago through an interview in Sun Magazine; thank you for reminding me of his valuable work.

    It is so kind of you to take the time to write, and I welcome resources.

    Be safe and well, Michelle. Gentle peace.

  6. Hola Kitty
    Te enviamos un ” MUCHAS GRACIAS ” desde Galicia, España.
    La Pandemia nos conectó.
    Ahora a aprender a vivir de otra manera, verdad?
    Saludos.
    Ma.Verónica , Raúl y flia.

  7. Dear Kitty, I am sorry to post here, but am so glad for the opportunity to connect. Your poem, “And the people stayed home” is having such a big impact, and not least on me and three of my friends. We have only just realised that you are alive and well and not a poet from the 18th century! And of course we appreciate the importance of copyright. One friend recorded a reading of the poem. I edited together with a soundtrack of an improvisation played by classical musician friends. Another friend created a lyric video with an existing recording he had made and beautiful cinematography, and lastly, another friend has written a song using your lyrics. Please would you let us know if you would be happy for us to share these pieces, and on what basis. If there is a way of communicating with you directly, perhaps we could let you see and hear what we have done. Thank you once again for being a blessing and an inspiration to so many people.

  8. How exciting this sounds. I would love to see it!

    I have e-mailed you; it may go to your spam folder.

    Be safe and well, and gentle peace to you!

  9. Yay!!!! You’re STILL alive! What joy. I am laughing out loud!!! Just loved this, thinking of all the time I will lose with little H and how puzzled and sad she looks on Facetime, breaks my heart given how often I’ve had her and it’s only a week tomorrow….yet, as you say we have to keep our hearts open and move on from grief. My MIL who is 90 is loving the Facetime videos of my garden, she’s demanding cuttings and plants daily. Loved Fergus…if that is who is peeping out, and that glorious nest, y’see you still have guests!xxxx

  10. Yes, birds at every door, it seems. Lovely.

    I’m so sad you and H. can’t cuddle; that is a heartbreaking part of these “staying safe” protocols that demand we sacrifice our hugs for love of the one we can’t hug…It is soooooo hard. I just keep telling myself, “This shall pass,” and offer it up for my friends and family on the frontlines of this horrifying virus. (And pray for the genius who will develop a vaccine sooner than we expected.) I don’t know if we move on from our gifts, but we can move on with them.

    You are in my heart. I know you have a rare and perfect gift for looking anywhere and finding blessing, so it’s especially ruinous to imagine you sad. I’m so glad you’re able to cheer your MIL, though, and actually BE in your lovely gardens. Still some weeks before that happens for us.

    Yes, that is Fergus, my little peanut. He says, be of good cheer. 🙂 Love you.

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