In particular, my landlords.
On the day we moved in, my landlady was there with the trucks. Which one would expect, to sign papers and pass along the keys. Not, however, to help us unpack boxes and move in. All while wearing fabulous, knee-high boots.
She came over two days later, with instructions for her oven. Printed in English.
Then, we had difficulty setting up our television. Her husband (our landlord), an electrician, came over for over two hours to help us. He loaned us his television while he fixed the problem with ours. When I blew a fuse in our transformer, attempting to blow-dry my hair, he gave us fuses.
He refused to take our money. So we bought him American beer. He immediately bought us two kilos of live prawns. You get the idea.
They are more than just good landlords. They have invited us into their family. It’s a classic Spanish family, where I meet nieces and sister-in-laws, cousins, and brothers. All the time. They all live in our town, and it seems that they are around each other constantly.
When they gather on Sunday afternoon, my family is welcome. The teenagers practice their English on me, and they never laugh at my Spanish. They feed us, and serve us drinks, and welcome us to their bustling table.
So, so nice.
It’s challenging my ideas about hospitality. I’m an American, and I’m from reserved German stock. Meaning, I am very concerned about “putting people out” or doing the wrong thing. And so, I talk myself out of hosting get-togethers.
When I lived in the states, I would explain that my house was too small, or it was too long of a drive for most of my friends. But really? I fretted that I would invite people, and they wouldn’t want to come. Or worse, they would come out of obligation, all the while wishing they were someplace else.
Issues, I have them.
Additionally, I have a phobia of the phone, meaning that most of my social connections were in safe, electronic formats—email, texting, or Facebook.
Now, I live in a foreign land, in a beautiful home in a great location. And we are blessed with people who have let us into their homes. Us, the bumbling man-children, who speak phrases like “I like….street….is good.”
Our eyes connect across a table, and they hold our children on their laps. We kiss each other hello and goodbye, and make tupperware containers of soup for each other.
When they stop by, unannounced (always, always, when I’ve taken off my own knee-high boots and a flowing scarf for my fifteen year old sweatshirt), I feel a connection to this land. Of course, I’m still separate, and well…foreign. But because of these people, a little less so.
Once again, I am humbled. I am challenged to look for other Americans, entering this new place. I am challenged to make them soup and invite them into my home. I am challenged to get over myself, and pick up the phone.
When I return to America, I will remember their incredible patience when I speak to people learning English.
Hospitality is a verb, a lifestyle, a hope, and a gift. It is what makes us human, connected, servants to each other.
And, for me, it is no longer an option.