I’m so proud to be a long-term member of this Fellowship! I’m going to talk a little bit about our hospitality program, but first I’d like to tell you a story.
Recently I was a substitute teacher at a middle school in Newport News, and as part of my duties I was assigned to be cafeteria breakfast monitor. Throngs of sixth, seventh and eighth graders, of all shapes and sizes, moods and manners of dress, freshly arrived at school with a new day of unknowns ahead of them, flooded into the cafeteria. Soon, I began to notice individual kids being hailed by name across the lines by a buddy or getting a friendly shove of hello. In turn, each kid’s face lit up with a sudden smile or a look of delighted surprise at being recognized and acknowledged. As it happened again and again, I began to reflect that in the social rough and tumble of what can be middle school, those kids knew that, if only for a moment, they mattered to someone and belonged somewhere. As they left the cafeteria, I threw in my greetings and smile as well, hopeful to add an extra drop of welcome and goodwill into their day.
And so was demonstrated to me one of the important principles of hospitality:
I see you; I acknowledge you; I welcome you; I’m glad you’re here.
I believe that the Fellowship’s Sunday morning hospitality program, which began about a year and a half ago, is one of the more successful and fun efforts to welcome both friends and strangers into our beloved community. Each Sunday a welcoming team of smiling greeters, door openers, food providers, coffee makers, servers, ushers and clean-up folks are now on hand to effectively say “Welcome! I’m glad that you’re here!”
As an introverted person myself, entering any large assemblage of people is not always an easy task. I have generally not been the person to first to extend a hand or greet another. Nothing personal, just my style. Being a part of a hospitality team, however, gives me an opportunity to offer service and welcoming by selecting roles which are more comfortable for me, such as providing food or making coffee or cleaning up.
As an added bonus, I’ve lately found myself more comfortable with signing up for some of the extravert-friendly roles, such as greeter or usher. Whatever your comfort level, there is a way we can all be part of this wonderful hospitality team. As Emily Dickinson said,
They may not need me, but they might.
I’ll let my head be just in sight.
A smile as small as mine may be
Precisely their necessity.
As I behold the rich rituals of hospitality unfold and grow, whether in crowds of children or in our own beloved community of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula, the words to the song “What a Wonderful World” also come to mind.
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky,
Are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, sayin’, “How do you do?”
They’re really sayin’, “I love you.”
Let it be so.