hospitality


Long ago, in southern Italy, my husband and I occasionally found ourselves with nothing to do on a Sunday.  It sounds silly, but we usually took the foot-ferry into Brindisi, walked up the (closed) main drag, and hung out at the stazione looking for lost tourists to assist.  We seldom had to wait long.  There they’d be, hesitantly glancing at the train schedules, trying to figure out how to read them.  We’d walk up and say, “Do you need some help?” and the inevitable response was, “Oh, thank goodness!” or something to that effect, in English.  We’d teach the travelers to use the schedules and then leave.

Almost two decades later, we were living in Italy again.  One of the first things I was asked to do was help an American priest get to his lodgings so he could say Mass at our little Navy base.  He missed his train from Rome.  Having been in country less than a week, he had no idea how to read the train schedule.  He telephoned, I talked him through it, then reviewed the lesson when I picked him up in Formia.  He became a family friend, which was wonderful, and he never missed a train again – at least when he visited us.

Today I was at the airport and ran into a church friend.  I had the opportunity to help her with her bags and with the self check-in process.  She was grateful, and so was I.  Once again, I felt as though I’d really helped a fellow traveler.

Life’s short.  Pay those favors forward.

 Heading to Indianapolis?  White River State Park is a great downtown destination.  Besides, a cute kitty lives in the Visitor Center.

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We’ve all seen them.  The men and women holding up hand-lettered signs, saying, “Homeless – need help.”  We look away or hand them a dollar.  We wonder if they are really homeless or if they’re pulling a scam.

Yesterday, my son came home from attending Mass at a friend’s church with an aluminum pan and a recipe.  In our area, churches participate in several cooperative programs to help the homeless.  One is cooking for Our Daily Bread, a Catholic Charities outreach program in Baltimore.  Each church has several days during the month where church members cook and serve pre-made casseroles at ODB’s facility downtown.  Of course, someone has to make and freeze all that food, and that’s where the aluminum pan comes into the story.

My daughter helped me shop and cook for two pans’ worth of hot dog casserole.  It was easy for her to slice up the hot dogs, mix spices and beans and soup, and help with cleanup.  As we cooked, we talked about whether homeless people really like hot dog casserole or chicken and broccoli casserole (the dish we usually cook during our parish’s ODB weeks).  I’m guessing that they do.

We had the chance to see the ODB building last November when we went to Mass at the Baltimore Basilica.  ODB’s building is right next door.  Long before the doors were scheduled to open, homeless people were lining up for that hot meal.  It was a cold November day, and I’m sure it wasn’t a comfortable wait.  Suddenly, the chicken and broccoli casserole connected with faces, with people who were too cold to return my smile, with people just like me who somehow ended up on the streets.

So, next time you see one of those signs, you still might not want to pass money out your window.  Don’t worry – there is something else you can do.  Find out who’s feeding the homeless, and give them some help.

I’m between houseguests.  My laundry room is piled with unfolded but clean sheets, towels and blankets.  West Virginia friends arrive tomorrow and leave Saturday, and another friend will return for more “truck stop time” this weekend.

Last summer was just like this.  People arriving, departing, cooking, laughing.  Endless laundry.  Loud piano playing.  Kids putting on shows for the parents.  No plan or schedule whatsoever.  This year, I thought, things would be different.  I’ll grade school papers on time, file reports before the deadline, keep my house picked up and have lots of time to write.

Doh.

Looks like the Good Lord has a plan for my summer, and it’s definitely hospitality ministry.  I’m a roadside stop on other people’s roadtrips.  Again.

This is all good, really.  Chances to reconnect with close friends I’ve not seen in two years.  Chances to remember why watching the Tour de France is great fun, especially with a resident expert on your family room sofa.  Chances to eat great food and not have to figure out how to cook it.  Chances to cuddle my beloved godbaby (guess she’s my godtoddler now!).  Chances to give my daughter special time with her girlfriends from far away.

A few sheets and towels here and there…no big deal.  I’m trading laundry time in for memories.