Within the past few months I have hosted a couple of priests for dinner, and then they stayed overnight in my guest room. They were both very pleasant and gracious guests, and easy to have around. We had great conversations, and both evenings were very enjoyable. The only complaint I have is that they didn’t do things the way I thought they should be done. One of them only filled up the ice trays half full, and when he put new linens on his bed in the morning, he didn’t make hospital corners. The other loaded the dishwasher all wrong and put the butter dish in the refrigerator instead of leaving it out on the counter. Now I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so I didn’t tell them about their errors. And the only way they will find out about them is if someone reading this column snitches on me.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking: That man has lived by himself way too long. And, of course, you’re right. I suspect if I were to live with a roommate or God forbid some kind of community, I would be given a severe talking to on a regular basis. No doubt I would also be given time outs on a fairly frequent basis. When we live by ourselves, it is easy to become rough around the edges and perhaps even a little brittle. There is something about being around other people, though, and having to rub shoulders with them on a regular basis that smooths away some of our rough edges and makes us easier to be with. Certainly this is true in the work environment, and while I can’t say for sure, I suspect it is true when you live with others.
I think the above is also true in regard to the Christian community. I have long maintained that among the many benefits of the Christian community there are two that are vitally important. Specifically, the Christian community supports us when we are struggling and feeling burdened, and it corrects us when we start to wander off and go our separate ways. Both of these functions are important and, I believe, both are essential in a Christian community.
The thing is, though, that in order to enjoy these benefits you have to be part of a community. You have to invest something of yourself in the community. You have to believe that you along with everyone else has a place in the community. For some people this comes naturally. Others seem to struggle with it, and some never seem to be able to make the connection. While I don’t know exactly why this is, I do know that a big part of helping people feel a part of a community is when those who are already established and at home in that community make the effort to invite and welcome new members. Another important piece is just accepting people as they are and where they are, and not expecting them to conform to our expectations.
Both of the above are important. Helping people feel a part of our community and knowing they have a home is an ongoing goal. The same is true of working harder at accepting people as they are and where they are. This is certainly true in our parish community. For me personally, though, I think it is also true for overnight guests. To this end, I have deleted the list of rules and regulations for guests I was composing for the back of my guest room door, and I will instead welcome any visitors I might have graciously and overlook their failings silently.