The East is a region renowned for its generous hospitality. It is a very welcoming part of the Globe. Extended families and community-togetherness have been the hall-mark of this part of the world for centuries. Having travelled fairly extensively in the region for the past 30 years, I would certainly endorse this from personal experience. Papua New Guinea, which in some ways is my second home, taught me the finer essence of hospitality. It is not really possible in that country to be “stranded” or without somewhere to rest for the night. The location may be uncomplicated, rural and very straightforward but the warmth of welcome and generosity shown by sharing a home and meals with you are very special. Never to be forgotten memories.
Two incidents spring to mind, we had climbed up a 10,000ft mountain and just “crashed-out” as it were on the grassy bank in front of the village. Exhaustion had taken its toll. Although their food supply was severely limited, in fact a whole harvest had been lost through cultural pressures, when we awoke – we were surrounded with beautiful, tasty, refreshing fruits of all kinds. Generous gifts expressing their hospitality. Soon we were refreshed and strengthened ready for the a night of rest in their newly constructed bamboo, guest house, before descending the next day. We will always remember the fruit bonanza we had up among the clouds.
On another occasion, the public transport we were using, a pick-up with tube-frame and canvas for shade, made it over a couple of mountain ridges and then stopped just before a bridge across a rapidly flowing mountain river. Stops are frequent and always fascinating. A variety of reasons precipitate them – in this case the owner-driver of the “bus” service had noticed some pigs for sale. Just the ones he was looking for over the past weeks. Thus our journey was interrupted, re-negotiated and terminated at that point. He needed to do a u-turn with his precious cargo. We needed to wait for an alternative service to appear at some unscheduled hour. It was near to sunset and the possibility of such transport was remote. The local village community welcomed us for a delicious meal and rest. Instant hospitality – generously provided. Later on, a government truck with some shift workers came by. I was able to negotiate with them to take me further along the road to their transit camp, where hospitality was offered for the night. The next morning I found a farmer taking a cow to market, it was a lifeless black cow – the most luxurious leather-seat ever experienced to that point. Soon we were hurtling along a dusty road to the junction at the foot of a huge mountain range, where I needed to change transport again. Such generous hospitality is a daily experience. You are most welcome, any time.
Africa is another continent where I have been overwhelmed by the generous hospitality. In Cote-D’oir, we were lavishly entertained to a lunch one Sunday after the morning service. The verses in an ancient travellers letter to friends in Corinth, echoed in my mind…” Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” Humbled, refreshed and enriched with appreciation, we made our way home. In another SE Asian country, the road in which the shipping agent was located became a special place for me. Several times a week I walked along it and each time I made new friends who showed me amazing hospitality in their humble homes. All along both sides of this narrow street were creative structures built of “redeemed-reclaimed” materials. Yet inside was a warmth of welcome I will never forget. Such creative initiative had been taken to make it “just like home” with pieces of local “designer-made” furniture and even carpet segments on the floors. I named it the “Street of Gold” after its rich hospitality. Along with a group of friends we spent an afternoon there bring gifts from our floating home to share with them. A street of generous hospitality.
In London, in the 60’s I used to stay overnight in a unique Guest House, the owner was in her 80’s and managed the 4 storey tenement house with dexterity and unbelievably generous hospitality, along with her two daughters. They sought never to turn anyone away and assured me there would always be room – I could come at anytime of day or night. A wonderful provision. The key was in its agreed location. A flask with hot tea and sandwiches near by would always be waiting inside. Then a note giving the room where I could find a bed. On one occasion, I was overwhelmed when I disovered the manageress had vacated her room and slept in her bookshop – on one of the shelves that had been creatively modified to double up as a bed – like a mobile home stackable bunk.
An amazing story I recall reading. There was a clerk in a hotel who was on duty one not so pleasant night. All the rooms had been allocated when an older gentleman came in rather late and weather-beaten. He enquired cheerfully if there was a vacant room. The clerk mentioned it had been a busy night and he thought that all the rooms were taken but he would check. Then he said. “However, I believe there is a small room available, if you don’t mind the simplicity.” The guest was most welcome. Generous hospitality indeed as the room was the clerk’s own humble resting place. He was really surprised when he was invited by the guest, as he was leaving, to visit him in a large city when next he had some free time. “I am sure you will enjoy the visit.” he said. Later the offer was taken up to visit this kind gentleman. The clerk found the area and then the address which was another hotel. He met with the older gentlemen who revealed to him that he was the owner of a chain of hotels and had been looking for a new manger for one of them. He then offered the position to the clerk. He said that he had known straight away when he met the clerk that stormy evening – he had found a person who understood the essence of generous hospitality.
Our aim should always be to seek to follow the encouragement in the Ancient Scrolls, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Let’s always be generous with our hospitality.
16 July 2006