As a little girl, I joined Focus on the Family‘s pen pal program and wrote to another girl in California. We swapped girly stickers and simple stories about our lives and anticipated each personal letter we’d receive in the mail. And though I can’t even recall her name now, I still remember the blissful excitement of seeing my name scrolled across a pink envelope. Over the last two decades, I’ve bundles letters I’ve received from friends and family members, precious offerings of time and care–words that continue to uplift me.
When my daughter’s best friend moved to the other side of the country, I suggested she “write” pictures to her friend. She didn’t need much encouraging, and gradually, her pictures turned into letters. All my children regularly write their great grandparents and a handful of other friends and family members. This past week, they received a card from their great aunt in St. Louis; running from the mailbox, they shouted, “Mom, we got a letter!”
In a world of instant messaging, texting, and social media, the traditional medium of letter writing has become a lost art. Some would say that technology allows us to communicate more frequently without much effort, but sometimes that added ounce of effort shows a person, “You were worth the extra energy.” Taking a few minutes can impact a person’s week in more ways than we realize.
When we do the unexpected, we speak the language of intention.
Though my hospitality skills seem rather dull, I’m trying to sharpen them as Scripture encourages us (Romans 12:13, I Peter 4:9, Titus 1:8). Since hospitality conveys, “I care about you. Being with you matters to me,” I attempt to communicate this message through various ways aside from scheduled dinner parties. Inviting someone into my disorganized and disruptive home may prove challenging that week, but I can implement hospitality in other ways: letter writing, inviting friends to play at the park with us, requesting their company on a hike or camping trip, asking a friend out to dinner, etc.
In Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, Henri Nouwen states that “Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”
When I’m with people, I try to be present in that moment, engaging them by asking meaningful questions and then listening to their answers–not just waiting for my turn to talk. Whether we sit across a blanket at a park, a kitchen table, or a coffee house couch, we have the opportunity to open our hearts to another person, impressing the truth of their worth on them. Someone does care. Someone is here to listen and pray and encourage you. You aren’t alone. And yes, you do matter to me, and to God.