What exactly IS hospitality? Here’s a quote from Ambrose Bierce, American satirist and author of The Devil’s Dictionary:
“Hospitality – the virtue which induces us to feed and lodge certain persons who are not in need of food and lodging.” You can understand why Bierce was considered a satirist, but all in all, his definition is merely an inverse of the original Biblical meaning.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary tells us that the word for hospitality is from the Greek word philoxenos. Take that word apart and you have philo, meaning brotherly love. Here’s where it gets interesting – Xenos means stranger. Have you ever heard of xenophobia – fear of strangers? Good word to describe how many of us feel today, isn’t it?
Do you remember the scene in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” when the father can’t handle the fact that his daughter wants to marry someone outside the Greek heritage? “Xeno!” he cries. She is marrying a stranger.
So philoxenos, hospitality, means loving strangers. It’s more than setting a nice table, or creating an inviting ambience in a room. It’s about conveying a sense of acceptance towards those who are not like us.
THE LAST COURSE: How long has it been since you’ve entertained a ‘stranger?’ The next time you invite people over, consider including someone you just met, or ask a guest to bring a friend. Afterwards, reflect on what new things you’ve learned from that interaction.