We read in III John:
You are doing a fine faithful piece of work, dear friend, in looking after the brothers who come your way, especially when you have never seen them before. ( III John 1:5 Phillips)
There is a couple in our church who deserve this praise. They have opened up their home to people who have needed a place to stay. So I asked Claire, the wife, what prompted them to help others in this way. Here's what she said:
When I first started working in Boston, I lived in a really crummy one bedroom apartment where the bedroom looked into an airshaft. I had just graduated with a degree in English literature from Mt. Holyoke, and the job I had was to deliver mail. Can you believe it? I lived in an age when most women got married young, so I figured I'd get married. But I didn't even date, so that wasn't an option.
At one point, my boss told me that I had a lovely sense of home, which seemed rather ironic given my airshaft view. But what he was sensing was that I really do love home. Within a year, I had a new job, and I ended up in a fabulous apartment with bay windows overlooking the park. There I used to have dinner parties with 10-14 people, and my kitchen was the size of a broom closet. I had a series of roommates, and the joke became that if you wanted to get married, go live with Claire.
After I married John, we had a few homes. Our first house was a fixer-upper, and while we were redoing the kitchen and bathroom, we went to other people's houses or the YMCA to take showers. Everyone was welcome in our home, and some would call it the Hawley rest and study dude ranch. Then we bought a little 150 year old New England farm house which we fixed up. We had work parties where we fed everybody who came to help put up wallboard or paint the outside. When we moved to Nebraska, we had an enormous house. For three years, we had exchange students living with us. We've always seen our house as a way of sharing with others. Although our home in California is not very big, we still share it.
So when this young ballet dancer came to church, and it was obvious she needed a place to stay, I said she could stay with us rent-free. Our daughters are grown and out of the house, so we have space. We couldn't have done this if both girls were still home. Our youngest daughter house-sat that summer and had been blessed, so I thought we could bless others. I thought this was a great way for this young woman to get to know the area and find a more permanent place to stay. She eventually found a roommate and then recently got married.
Having her stay with us for those six weeks just seemed like the perfect thing to do. It also met a need for me because I don't have my girls at home any more and am having to let go of them. She happens to be the same age as my eldest daughter. This woman was delightful. I just love her. And as ballet dancers don't make a ton of money, we often took her out to dinner. I had a friend who did work for us when our girls were young and often didn't charge us; so this was a way for me to pay the blessing forward.
Just recently, I saw an email from a woman who had contacted a lot of area churches asking for a place to stay. She and her husband were moving from Fort Collins, CO and have three cats, a dog, a bird, and a 3-month-old baby. His work was only going to pay for a week in a hotel. They have a house in Colorado which hasn't sold yet, so they're not ready to buy and just need a place to rent. But you can't really rent a place before looking at it. We have two free bedrooms, which aren't very big, but they're available. I told them that they are welcome to come and stay as long as they need. But as we have cats already, and I don't do dogs, we needed to find a place for them. So another church friend said she'd take the dog, and the family is boarding the cats. I just felt it was important to reach out, and we're in a position to do it. And it's working out just perfectly.
I've always appreciated home -- even though the Queen might not want to come because there are often projects underway. To me, though, home is not a museum; it's meant to be lived in. Opening up our home is a way of giving to others.
Claire and John are such good examples of making a difference! In whatever way possible, we can follow their lead and be hospitable to others. The words we read in III John are apropos to Claire and John, and can be (and maybe already are) to you, too:
It's good work you're doing, helping these travelers on their way, hospitality worthy of God himself. (The Message, III John 1:5, 6)