Adele Calhoun defines hospitality in this way: “to be a safe person who offers others the grace, shelter and presence of Jesus.”[i] Hospitality is not simply the offer of a place to stay the night, a good meal with some good conversation, or a ride home from an event. It’s the offer of these things so that a person might experience through them the grace, shelter and presence of Jesus. Our goal is to allow others to enjoy Jesus’ hospitality through our own. We take all that we own and offer it for Jesus’ use in making others feel welcomed, included and valued.
I gained my first and fullest glimpse of hospitality in the cozy home of my teacher and coach Don Warren. Coach Warren spent 28 years investing in young people in the classroom and on the playing field. The majority of his coaching efforts were poured into shaping the boys basketball programs in Dexter, NM and Cloudcroft, NM. He won 12 district championships, four regional championships, and had four top-four finishes in the New Mexico state tournament. Coach Warren was named his district’s coach of the year 11 times and earned the 1987 New Mexico Coach of the Year award. In 1997 he was inducted into the New Mexico High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor.
Coach Warren influenced me in the small classrooms of Cloudcroft High (26 in my graduating class) and on the basketball court and football field of our single A school (the smallest designation in New Mexico athletics). But perhaps his longest-lasting influence on me came from the gatherings he hosted in his home after the games.
Don and Judy, together with their daughters Leah and Michal, invited players, coaches, and referees to their house after most home games. Winter hats and letter jackets were piled on a bed, couches and kitchen chairs were rearranged, and athletes and adults mingled, snacked, and laughed as the games’ bloopers were verbally replayed. Everyone was welcome—opposing coaches, helpful and hurtful referees, stars who never left the game and subs who never left the bench. As a teenager, it was a safe place where people were always glad to see me arrive and sad to see me go. And in a town so small it didn’t even have a stoplight it was the best (and only) nightlife around. Coach Warren’s is still the face I picture and the home I envision when I think of hospitality.
It’s the kind of thing Jesus envisions for all of us—loving God and loving neighbor through warm and gracious hospitality. Jesus calls us to use things like a meal, money or a few moments of time to show people we’re immensely glad to see them.