On The Journey Towards Hospitality
written by FR. LARRY GILLICK, S.J.
There are two Latin words, which sound almost the same. The first is "hospes," which means "welcome" and the second is "hostis," which means "enemy." From the first word we have the word, "hospital" and from the second we have "hostage". Welcoming is a free accepting of the other; taking hostages means imprisoning the other.
In our neighborhood, when I was a young lad, I often visited two homes of friends that were on our block, I looked forward to visiting one of them but dreaded visiting the other. Years later when I was revisiting my old neighborhood I recalled that split. When I would go to the first home, the mother of my friend would sit down with me at the breakfast table and listen to my exaggerations and exploits. There would be cereal bowls and empty cups on the table, but she would ignore them, turn off the radio so she could hear me better and seemed to enjoy being a part of my life. She could get me talking about myself and I loved that, even if what I was saying wasn't really quite true!
The second house was not so much fun. When I would visit there I had to be careful. The woman seemed to listen, but she was always cleaning the windows and dusting and keeping me nervous with her broom in hand. She was pleasant enough, but I felt like a germ about to infect her sanitary bubble. I think I felt sorry for her, because she wasn't comfortable in her own house.
If we have welcomed ourselves, others will find welcome in us. If we are a hostage to ourselves, we will be imprisoned by our loneliness.
from the henri nouwen weekly reflections