When my husband was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, we received a packet of information from the cancer center. The large envelope included various forms, contact numbers, booklets on what to expect, nutritional information, and other resources for patients and their families. Among the papers, I also came across an offer of free parking for cancer patients at a nearby church.
At the time, the hospital and cancer center had waived all parking fees in their shared lot as part of their response to the coronavirus pandemic. So when I saw the offer from the church, I thought, “How nice, but not necessary,” and tucked the paper back into the envelope.
But when my husband started treatment and in the weeks that followed, some days I couldn’t find a parking spot at the cancer center. Even the over-flow lot was often full, with cars parked at the end of rows where they weren’t supposed to be. One day I found myself circling around and around looking for an empty space without success, and finally decided just to stop behind the last row of parked cars. I could always move at a moment’s notice if need be, but at least I could stop my endless searching.
Some said the parking problem stemmed from the waiving of the parking fees, because people would park at the hospital and cancer center for free, then walk across the street to the long-term care home and other residences where parking fees still applied. Whatever the reason, suddenly the “nice but not necessary” offer of free parking from the church seemed like a great gift.
So I fished out the church’s offer from our original information packet, added our licence plate number and contact information, signed the waiver releasing the church from responsibility in the event of any damage, and dropped the form through the church mail slot.
Instead of circling around and around the hospital and cancer center looking in vain for a parking spot, I could now wait at the church until my husband was ready to be picked up. It was a small thing compared to the enormity of my husband’s cancer diagnosis and the rigors of his treatment, but not having to struggle with the shortage of parking helped to relieve some of the stress for both of us.
My husband and I talked about how good it was for the church to offer the use of their parking lot. We talked about writing a thank you note and sending a donation to let the church know how much we appreciated their openness to the community.
I’m sorry that we weren’t able to do that together, for my husband died unexpectedly from cancer-related complications. Suddenly I was in mourning. Suddenly I was no longer driving him to the cancer center. Suddenly I was no longer parking at the church.
Now months later, I still grieve my husband’s sudden passing. Yet by God’s grace and the support of family, friends, church, and community, I am gradually finding my way forward. I’ve started speaking and writing again. I’m working on a book of sermons. I’ve taken on a new editing contract. And in my husband’s memory, I finally wrote that thank you card for the hospitality of the church parking lot.
I thanked the congregation for their generosity in offering free parking for cancer patients. I included a donation as a token of our thanks. I sealed and stamped the envelope with a prayer of gratitude for their generosity.
I hesitated to share this as part of the wild hospitality of God, for there’s nothing particularly wild about that church parking lot. All the spots are marked with painted lines, and all the cars park neatly in between them. But my husband and I certainly experienced the free parking as a form of hospitality—a gracious openness and welcome to us as strangers and part of the wider community.
In the midst of cancer, in the chaos of the pandemic, in the small, everyday struggle of finding a place to park, the church offered to share what they had, and it turned out to be just what we needed. Perhaps that too is the wild hospitality of God, a hospitality found even in small and unassuming ways.
Next Facebook Live!
Join Christine Sine, Randy Woodley, and Edith Woodley for a discussion on Hospitality and the Land. Wednesday, September 21st at 9 am PT. Happening live in the Godspace Light Community Group on Facebook – but if you can’t catch the live discussion, you can catch up later on YouTube!