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Reasons to Hope: The Hospitality of Strangers

In Winterset Iowa, the show must go on. When a late April blizzard unexpectedly hit, over 60 people showed up from surrounding farms with quilts, hand warmers, hot soup, and cold beer.

As a performing artist I’ve traveled the country singing songs to strangers. Sometimes they know the lyrics, sometimes they don’t even know my name. Either way, if I’m being true to the moment and open to the spirit, the music brings us together. And if we meet after the show, stories are inevitably exchanged as people offer hospitality, suggestions on the best late night diner, the finest cup of coffee, how to find the swimming hole, where to see the sunset, among other adventures. The hospitality of strangers. 

One of my favorite tours was for the record, Practical Sadness, where I drove around most of the United States completely alone for the first time without my band, or any crew support, just me and my guitar playing the most unconventional venues I could find. I played shows anywhere and everywhere, from a posh penthouse in Chicago to an eclectic warehouse in Des Moines, to a 19th century barn in the middle of a blizzard, to a desert amphitheater under the stars. I played biker bars and art galleries, regal halls and rock clubs. It was the tour of a lifetime. 

But the best part always came after the show. Because these venues often allowed for a closer, more connected experience, I would get to meet anyone and everyone who stayed after the show. One conversation would lead to another and before long people were meeting each other and sharing stories and once it got to be really good, I would pick up my guitar again and we’d write a song together. Random strangers who had most likely never written a song before would be throwing out lines and trying on melodies like we were at RCA on Music Row. It was awesome. 

A few of my songwriting partners after a show at Arcosanti in Arizona. These men had built the town in their youth and were proud to be long-standing members of the community. 

And it made me realize — music is its own reward. And the hospitality of strangers is the kindest kind, a kind so powerful it transforms “strangers” into friends. This gives me reason to hope.

In Hebrews 13:2, the Apostle Paul writes: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

What magic is this, that we could be entertaining angels in our midst?! And to bring it home more viscerally, Jesus explains it like this: 

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Week 34 Show Some Hospitality 

For week 34, let’s show some hospitality to strangers. This could be as simple as a kind word exchanged in the grocery line, a compliment on someone’s shirt, or stopping to let the other person go in front of you. It could be getting on Nextdoor and seeing if there is a neighbor whose need you might be able to meet. Or maybe turning that neighbor you don’t know into less of a stranger and more of a friend. The possibilities truly are endless. 

For an inspiring example of hospitality, check out Wish for Our Heroes and catch a conversation with the Deputy Director of their Indiana Chapter on Reasons to Hope

Writing the Book of Hope 

We’ve been writing the Book of Hope together for 34 weeks now, but it’s never too late to join us. Here’s all you need to get started.

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