This summer I traveled to Virginia and entered the home of a couple I had never met before. They were away for the evening, but I went in and made myself at home, just as they had instructed me over the phone. I went to bed and didn’t even meet my hosts until the next day.
Did that feel strange? Maybe a little. But possibly the weirdest part, if I try to look at it through the eyes of general society, is the fact that it wasn’t really all that strange to me. How many people in America have ever had the privilege of walking into the home of total strangers (while the people are away!) and staying there for the night without even being expected to pay anything? Our Mennonite culture of hospitality and mutual trust is a blessing that I never want to take for granted.
The reason I traveled to Virginia was to rehearse with Oasis Chorale before traveling farther south on tour. So before the next two weeks were up, I had stayed in the homes of a number of strangers-turned-friends. This is not something new to me. Having traveled frequently with choirs and other groups, I have been on the receiving end of countless deeds of gracious hospitality. It’s silly that I still sort of dread this aspect of tours, since staying in strangers’ homes usually turns out to be fascinating and fun. I guess it’s still the shy kid in me that just doesn’t enjoy the idea at first. I should know by now that the experience is an odd and joyous thing that adds another rich dimension to my life.
Always I meet generous people who are willing to share what they have, little or much; and the tour this summer was no exception to the rule. There were the hosts who brought out the fine china and goblets to serve us breakfast. There were those who regaled us with stories and were interested in knowing all about our lives. There was the man who, after we had arrived at his house, kept driving right into the yard and around the house because he wanted to show us his treehouse in the backyard. From the warm and sweet to the downright eccentric, I met beautiful people who are joyfully building the kingdom of God in their communities in quiet and ordinary ways. They inspired me to be willing to turn around and give, to pay forward the generosity that I received.
What more shall I say about chorale tour? The joy of making beautiful music with a group of talented people is not something that is easily put into words (which is why this post is mostly about hospitality). Being a caretaker of sacred beauty and worship is not a mission to be taken lightly. I am not sure that I have even fully grasped or appreciated what a privilege it is. But I do know that I am irreversibly hooked on choral music, and I am everlastingly grateful for the singing opportunities I’ve had in the last few years. Sometimes God takes the dreams you shelved long ago, gently dusts them off, and hands them to you with a smile.