There are many women in scripture who remain unnamed, yet have significant roles to play. (Unnamed women are usually identified by the town they are from, their relationship to a man, by a deed they performed or by their physical condition.) One of my favorite stories is the Shunammite Woman in 2 Kings. Her story is a lengthy one and later she returns in another chapter. It’s in the very opening lines that we are introduced to her independent thinking that becomes very obvious throughout the rest of her story.
One day Elisha [the prophet] came to Shunam, where there was a woman of influence, who urged him to dine with her. Afterward, whenever he passed by, he used to stop there to dine. So she said to her husband, “I know that he is a holy man of God. Since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof and furnish it for him with a bed, table, chair and lamp, so that when he comes to us he can stay there.” Sometime later Elisha arrived and stayed in the room overnight.
It’s clear from the opening lines of her story that she is a woman who is both hospitable and concerned about the needs of others. (Her husband has nothing to say nor does he have an important part in the story.) When we read stories from the Old Testament we see that hospitality is an important practice for both women and men. The Shunammite woman is a great example of this.
When we look at our own society today this kind of hospitality is the exception rather than the common practice. Generations ago knowing your neighbor and everyone in your neighborhood was common. Being present to them and helping when there was a need was the way people showed hospitality. Today people can live in a house or apartment and not even know the name of the person or family living next to them.
Some of this changed as a result of the coronavirus because social distancing caused people to reach out to others, both friends and strangers, in new ways via the internet and personal deeds. The need to have contact with others felt like a necessity. Strangers brought food to elderly people. Unknown numbers brought food and supplies to first responders. Teachers shared ideas with parents for home schooling. And the list goes on.
The question we need to ask and ponder today is are we continuing this concern for others, and are we responding to the needs of others? Hospitality can take many forms. Are we still calling a neighbor with limitations of age or illness to see if she or he needs anything? Are there ways that we continue to show appreciation to medical personnel, mail carriers, city maintenance crews, etc. for what they did and continue to do for us? Are we reaching out to people who were once strangers but became essential to us during “lockdown?” It shouldn’t take a pandemic for us to be hospitable. The practice of reaching out to the stranger or those we are close to us is not relegated to the hard times. It should be a part of our daily lives. Let’s all be hospitable people every single day!
How is hospitality practiced by you and/or your family?
What are some examples of how you received or gave hospitality during the worst of COVID-19?