I saw a prompt recently asking: How to Welcome with Children, and I was taken with it (thank you, Kindredmom). I wanted to sit with it, think about it and wonder in which ways it is different than welcoming without children. So I asked an expert and a visionary.
You see, from time to time when I want to get a read on how my vocation as a wife and mom lines up with my original vision for my life, I channel my younger self. (Read Mark's Gospel for today on learning from youth). She’s a good barometer.
She didn’t have the whole picture, but she had some inspiring thoughts about what shape a life might take on. Naturally the answers to big questions came more clearly to her, because by and large, she was the only one who needed to sign off on them. Circumstances have changed dramatically for me since then, but I still revel in these exchanges-- imagined or not.
Earlier me relished the idea of simple living--for the sake of the world community, for frugality, for the environment, investing in her community, finding a worshipping community strewn with children (maybe even, noisy, lively children), supporting fair trade artisans, knowing her neighbors, forging personal relationships, keeping in touch personally in a world that communicates technologically. (The irony that I'm blogging about this is not lost on me).
Very crunchy, right?
The funny thing is that I think this is also the vision of hospitality that the Church has for community world-wide: An other-centered posture of hospitality. How often have I assauged my conscience along with the Disciples by imagining the absurdidty of it--the lavishness of making a fuss, welcoming the stranger (family/friends not exempt). This is not exclusively 'hipster'--it's very much Catholic!
In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbour of every person without exception. and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign labourer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, "As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me" (Matthew 25:40).
Gaudium et Spes, (The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)
At the heart of these big ideas, something bigger still resonates. Not because I'm good at it, because I crave it. Don't you?
Somewhere amidst the perfect shots where we are able to crop out the chips and cracks that give away our imperfect selves, there is a hunger for authenticity, for relationship, community--no matter the setting. When I find myself in this place, I look to one of my most challenging mentors who has a truth to speak about love in practice:
“We cannot love God unless we love each other,
and to love we must know each other.
We know Him in the breaking of bread,
and we know each other in the breaking of bread,
and we are not alone anymore.
Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet,
too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.”
Those who have spent time with kids know from experience that the hours of the day are punctuated with food. Snacks and meals are essential for energy and stamina. It strikes me that welcoming with kids (or anyone else) is done very much in the same spirit that Dorothy describes—as is, lovingly, often, and to provide stamina for the journey. At its core, this describes the Christian community: doing life together and being known by the love shown therein (John 13:35). Most of Jesus’ ministry consisted of these mundane exchanges.
I have certainly fallen prey to the idea that the chaos of our existence with kiddos would deter folks from wanting to join us at our table. Our meals are simple, clutter is obvious, interruptions are many, and bedtimes are early. And, there is a large margin of grace that is extended in the midst of this chaos each time we invite someone in. I find that whether our guests are well-versed in the kid routine or mystified by it, there is some reveling in taking part of it.