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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. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open wide a spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit.

The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dance, free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.

To convert hostility to hospitality requires the creation of the friendly empty space where we can reach out to our fellow human beings and invite them to a new relationship. This conversion is an inner event that cannot be manipulated but must develop from within. Just as we cannot force a plant to grow but can take away the weeds and stones which prevent its development, so we cannot force anyone to such a personal and intimate change of heart, but can offer a space where such a change can take place.

Henri Nouwen
Reaching Out

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