Saturday, September 14, 2013


I've been thinking about hospitality.

This week, I worked every day to make my apartment a place where I can be hospitable. To me, this means a space where I can rest: my eyes, my muscles, my mind. If I can rest, then I can offer rest to others out of my rest. It's starting to come together. I'm not a visual aesthetic, but I can put things in order... if I try. There is no pintrest genius happening over in Dobrich. Just a basic ordering and sorting. My new kitchen towels sure don't match anything else I own.

I've also been thinking about how hard its been for me to receive hospitality since I arrived in Bulgaria.

I've received a lot of hospitality.

Free word play on sound and association for 10 seconds: Hospitality. Hospital. Hostel. Hospitable. Hostess. Hostage. Host. Virus. Virtual. Viral. Hostage. Hindrance. Helpless. Helpmate. Help. Home. Hole. Humor. Human.

Here is an example:

The day before I was supposed to arrive in Dobrich, I had lunch with a sweet Bulgarian woman named Danche. She's friends of friends and so hosted me during my first visit to Bulgaria last summer. I spent 5 days sleeping on her couch and exploring Sofia slowly and fearfully. I never made it to the center. My furthest excursions were to the nearby park and market. She fed me. Asked anxiously about my jet lag. Now, when I'm in Sofia, we get lunch together. To my great frustration, she usually pays. During our last lunch, I asked if she could help me understand the website for the bus station. She said she could do better than that and called her son. Long story short, the next morning, she and Vasco picked me up in a car they had borrowed from friends, my bus ticket in hand, to help carry my luggage down six flights of stairs and transport me to the bust station and make sure I was on the right bus.

Their simple gesture to help turned into an all morning sacrifice on their part. They gave me hospitality far beyond what was needed.

My first response was embarrassment. I'm a grown woman. I'm supposed to be living in this country and be competent enough to buy a ticket. Isn't this what the Fulbright Commission wanted when they paid for two weeks of language lessons? And my lovely friend Danche and her son, seeing me unable to do this, doing so much to make my life happen the way it needed to. Why?

I had almost not asked for her help with the website at all. But I had just sent a friend a long email encouraging her to see her limitations as a chance for God to work in others by getting the chance to serve her. Hypocrite was the word that came to mind as I vainly tried to find out what time a bus left for Dobrich.

While they were on their way to get me, I noted to my boyfriend, Robbie, how humbling and embarrassing it was. "Humbling, yes. Embarrassing, no. Accept the love," he texted back.

Oh. Right.

See, I like hosting others but hate being hosted. Like in my word play, I think of words like "virus". Things that suck the life.

When I'm walking, I can feel strong and competent. I don't feel heavy. My muscles and bones are holding me up. They are strong. When someone picks me up, I feel large and bulky, a burden. Suddenly, gravity claims every atom of mass and tells me just what it takes to hold me up. I hate that feeling. It took all the joy out of piggy back rides a long time ago.

Since arriving in Bulgaria in July, I've been almost completely dependent on someone at some time. Make it before that point; more people than I care to admit helped me get through the rough time between the end of one job at Calvary and the start of the Fulbright, with meals, places to stay, an ignored and growing tab. And in Bulgaria: graciousness to host me when I wanted to visit a city; help to get to bus stations; carting me around central Bulgaria so I could teach at a camp; someone going to a pharmacy to find me contact solution (first in Elena, then in Serbia!). What was I supposed to do?

Accept, I think.

I am not self sufficient. I never have been. I have to learn this. Accept this. Respond with deep gratitude. Get off my butt and help someone far beyond what seems reasonable because I've been helped that way.

It's a pride issue. Seriously. But then, what isn't?

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