Neighborly Hospitality

by Melissa Taft
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by Emily Huff

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” 

-Leonard Cohen  

Tomorrow marks the 10-year anniversary of when our moving truck arrived to our home with our stuff when we moved to Seattle, and the story of how we landed here in our neighborhood speaks volumes of what I have learned about hospitality through the years.  

From AOL mail  

Sun, Sep 9, 2012  

Subject: the story of our stuff 

It has taken me a while to gear up tonight to write about what happened today. Suffice it to say that our move was a nightmare. A lot of the boxed items made it fine (as I packed all of those in June and July myself), but unfortunately, the bigger sentimental items that were under the care of the moving company (dining room table, the wardrobe that my dad refinished for us, parts of the bed he made for us, and my grandmother’s desk to name a few) were not even wrapped up and were just thrown in the truck. They have lots of scratches and breaks. At a certain point, we stopped reacting in shock and just kept taking pictures of damage so that we can file claims. The kicker is that many of these items aren’t simple “Ikea replacements.” And yet, our neighbors were incredible (over 10 people showed up to help us move stuff in). And let me remind you that we only moved here on August 25th, and we already feel such a deep sense authentic community here. And at the end of the day, we are hoping that the scratches and eventual repair scars and marks will always serve as reminders to us of people’s (and God’s) grace and hospitality today and a challenge to remember that this is after all just “stuff.” 


As we said in Kenya a lot, “God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.” I also was thinking about the hymn today; “It is well with my soul”– this was written by a man who had just lost his 4 daughters in a shipwreck in a storm. Goodness, we did not lose people today. It was just stuff. It truly is ALL about perspective.  


I walked down to church tonight and was not surprised that the sermon seemed to be written just for me. It was all about when Jesus turned water into wine and our pastor pointed out that this story points to the bigger truth that when we face problems, we have a choice to either focus on the problem or to look to Christ. With the gift of community today, I am so thankful that we have been able lean into this truth more. 


When I talked to my daughter about it tonight and asked her how she was doing and feeling, she put it  best: “I’m mad, sad, disappointed, and frustrated, but I am so happy about our neighborhood.”

As I look back at this, I am struck by how beautifully grace showed up on that particular day through our neighbors. One neighbor showed up that morning in our empty house and offered to pray with me before the day began, and she got snacks and drinks that day to keep people’s spirits up. Her husband made numerous calls to reach out and rally the neighborhood to pitch in when we realized that it was going to be a long day, and we had our first glimpse that he’s a  mover and a shaker and the best advocate a neighbor could ask for. Four guys in the neighborhood were among the first of the burly men to show up and recruit even more muscles to chip in with hauling boxes and furniture. The college guys renting rooms in one of their houses whom we had never met before that day created a human chain to carry boxes into the house and were worth their weight in gold. Another family invited us over to their house that night for an unforgettable steak dinner and welcomed us around their table. We experienced John 1:14 in living color that day: “The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one of a kind glory- like  Father, like Son– GENEROUS INSIDE AND OUT— true from start to finish.”  

I was in a fragile place that day- exhausted from the move itself and emotionally raw from leaving beloved grandparents and dear friends behind. And I was just plain done from the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that we had had, but the way our new neighbors showed up felt like a scene out of Les Mis when Jean Val Jean is given the silver candlesticks  from the priest. We did not deserve this grace, but we were experiencing God’s lavish gifts through our neighbors, and it was all I could do to not dissolve into a puddle of tears with  gratitude.  

A friend of ours who was a professor of English and cinema studies sent us this response after we relayed what had happened. “What a story! It’s a cautionary tale about choosing moving companies, but it’s also an IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE ending, isn’t it? Potter may still have the  $8,000, but he’s alone on Christmas Eve. So thankful for all those near and far who have helped  to make this side of the story WONDERFUL!”  

Another friend emailed me that following week these words that I now have displayed in our kitchen symbolically in one of the frames that was broken in our move: “In the coming days, as  you discover and rediscover the brokenness of life, may you be reminded of His perfecting work. May your heart continually turn to Him to be repaired and healed, and may His glory shine through.”  

I was pinching myself in those early days in the neighborhood recognizing that we had landed a  community that gathers around broken pieces and works together to bring healing and restoration. While I felt fragile and was literally piecing our stuff back together, I resonated deeply with these words from Ted Loder: “What can I believe, except what Jesus taught: that only what is first broken, like bread, can be shared; that only what is broken, is open to your entry; that old wineskins must be ripped open and replaced if the wine of new life is to expand.”  

We experienced hospitality in a way I had not seen it lived out in a neighborhood quite like this before. I remember an article in a Young Life magazine years ago talking about Young Life leaders being “Jesus with skin on,” and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that we  encountered the living Christ that day as we were welcomed so beautifully. 

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One year my neighbor Annie sent out holiday cards that said, “Loved people love people.” As we experienced such grace and hospitality, we then could settle in and begin to welcome others into the community who came after us. “Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others,  you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.Matthew 5:16

Heidi Haverkamp writes about Benedictine hospitality and I think it relates to our neighborhood as well:

“Receive every person who comes through your door as though they were bringing Jesus to you. Receive every person you meet as though you were encountering the face of Christ … Part of what makes a monastery a healthy place is to receive guests, so that the monks or sisters don’t get turned in on themselves, or imagine that they’re the center of the world, or that only they are good Christians. Part of what makes a church a healthy place is to receive guests, so that we don’t imagine we’re a club, or a secret place. A church should be a place anyone can come to meet Jesus, and a church is a place where anyone who comes can be a way for the other people there to meet Jesus. That’s why hospitality is so important. Because it helps us meet Jesus.

I am grateful for the way I have met Jesus in profound ways here in our neighborhood over the last 10 years as He has shown us His love through our neighbors time and time again. And, I am grateful for these people with whom I share the journey that we get to keep pointing each  other to the light in the broken stories we carry together.

Painting by Emily Huff

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