This past two weeks have been a whirlwind of motion for me… I arrived here in Lithuania for a teaching session with MA students for a class which focuses on asking the “big questions” about language teaching – what are our motivations and goals for teaching a language, how does language shape our perspective on the world and what should be the principles and values that guide us in this endeavor as we encounter the “stranger”. Both “the stranger” who may be our language student and also “the stranger” whose language and culture is different from our own. The two main books we read from during the course are “The Gift of the Stranger” by David I. Smith and Barbara Carvill and “In Other Words” by Jhumpa Lahiri. Both of these books discuss (from very different vantage points) how our sense of who we are and the language we use to express our identity are intricately intertwined.
Since coming to Lithuania, I have been showered with hospitality by those whose background is very different from my own – either linguistically or culturally or both. And I often feel like I have very little to offer in return – other than my simple presence. But I think we are often too quick to disregard this simple gift that we can bring to every encounter with a “stranger”. This simple act of being a present witness to their lives and story is in itself a gift. An attentive and listening heart that receives deeply the gift of hospitality that is offered by a “stranger” opens the door to a connected way of seeing that offers a fresh perspective for both you and the “other”. Whether we are learning to receive others well as the “host” or making room for another’s way of hospitality as the “guest”, we may discover newness within ourselves welling up as a result of that encounter. Especially when we are willing to try to see from the other’s point of view – whether culturally or linguistically or spiritually.
Our time and attention are irreplaceable gifts that we can give one another when we receive their presence with thanksgiving and their hospitality with praise – whether over a cup of coffee, or a walk in the woods, or at an evening meal. May our hearts be ever ready to embrace ‘the stranger’ the Spirit points out to us in our midst for by doing so, we may discover that we have entertained angels unawares…
Five-Minute-Friday’s Theme: Hospitality – I am taking part in the #fiveminutefriday community. To write your own and link up with the other writers, you can do so here.