Several years ago, our Sunday School class held a Chili Cook-Off. I brought bowls of shredded cheese and sour cream to help calm anticipated spicy fires of the tongue. I also won second place with my vegetarian chili, substituting ginger ale for the beer.
That night I spent some time getting to know another class member better. I don’t remember how it came up after we’d sampled the seventeen (or more) types of chili, but we discovered that both our moms died from a glioblastoma multiforme—an aggressive form of brain cancer. As we shared our stories, I told her about the hospitality the Sacramentine Sisters extended toward my sister and me.
SURGERY AND A MAKESHIFT BED
It was in October 2011, after my mom fell, after they’d found the tumor, and after the words the brain swelling spat from her mouth, “You are not my daughter. I don’t have a home. I don’t believe in adoption.” It was after all the ugliness of those initial days and after several weeks in the nursing home waiting for enough healing to allow diagnostic surgery.
It was after that surgery had taken place in yet another hospital 30-plus miles from my mother’s home, 230-plus miles from my own. Sissy and I had already spent a couple of nights in the Days Inn down the road.
On one particular night (maybe the same night of surgery—I don’t recall for sure), Sissy and I decided to stay at the hospital because Mom’s blood pressure refused to behave. Sissy pilfered a couple of pillows from a hallway gurney and cleaned them with her hand disinfectant. We swiped pillowcases from a linen cart and created two “beds” from the four small seats in a tiny waiting room outside ICU.
We dozed that night all curled and crooked in the light of Coke and candy machines. A security guard woke us at about 5 a.m. to tell us we couldn’t sleep there and that we should go to the Days Inn down the road.
UNCOMMON AND INVENTIVE HOSPITALITY
Late that next night, we drove 20 minutes to a retreat center run by the Sacramentine Sisters who had invited us to stay there for as long as we needed—at no cost. (My sister was the Communications Director for that Diocese back then.) We found the key where they’d hidden it for us. The entry was dimly lit, and the fragrance of prayer candles greeted us as they flickered in the chapel. We whispered in the silence as we tiptoed up the stairs.
All we needed was a nearby comfortable place to rest but we were overwhelmed at the size of the double suite prepared for us above the chapel. There was a sitting area, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bath.
My sister called me to the refrigerator and showed me the plates of quiche and pumpkin pancakes placed in there for us. There was a dish of sliced apples, three kinds of jam, orange juice, milk, and even wine. On the counter were two boxes of cereal, regular and sugar-free syrup, a fresh loaf of bread, and a plate of doughnuts — and there were bananas on the table.
Sometimes it’s the simplest touches that speak the greatest love.
Later, I wandered out of the room. We were the only ones on the floor, but I could almost see the sisters of the past as they moved in silence up and down the hall. In the dark prayer room, I peered through the curtains into the chapel below. The nuns used to be cloistered and would come into this room to pray and hold vigil during the night. I loosed the tears, and I felt as if someone was wrapping a blanket around me.
I hadn’t thought about that experience for months, but I felt peace again in the remembering. What the sisters did for us didn’t take much time, but we felt so loved — and we couldn’t know at that point how badly we’d need that refreshment to strengthen us for what was to come.
I remembered all this again when my son and family stayed with us after their house was emptied and loaded for their move to Florida. So I put clean sheets on our bed for them and spritzed the potpourri. (I forgot to leave little mints on the pillows.)
I bought a sample-size bottle of manly-scented body wash and made Grandpa’s pancakes at my son’s request. Then I prepared a dish of lasagna, our traditional Christmas Eve supper — and I baked my son’s favorite blueberry muffins and packed the leftover ones for the trip.
Because sometimes it’s the simplest touches that speak the greatest love.
I tried not to let the tears loose, but I wasn’t very successful.
SON’S FAVORITE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
1-1/3 cups flour
1 cup quick oatmeal
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt (optional)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup skim milk
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- Heat oven to 375 F.
- Oil 12 muffin cups.
- Combine dry ingredients.
- Mix egg, milk and oil and mix with dry ingredients until just moistened.
- Stir in blueberries.
- Fill cups about 2/3 full.
- Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar or sanding sugar.
- Bake about 25 minutes.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.
Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.
Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
(Romans 12:11-13 MSG)
Inventive Hospitality first published at Grace Table on April 24, 2016. Published with permission.
Questions For Reflection
- Where and when have you experienced the gift of inventive or unexpected hospitality?
- What were the circumstances? How did it make you feel?
- How could you bless someone with the gift of creative hospitality this week?
Sandra Heska King
Nurse, Writer, Poet, and A Voice of Chronic Joy®
Sandra is a wife of over 48 years, adoptive mom to two, and “nama” to five. She has worked in multiple nursing specialties, including family practice, OB/GYN, operating room, and public health. She writes from her home in South Florida where she lives on the edge of the Everglades. Sandra loves to hike and photograph wildlife, — and sometimes even kayaks with alligators! She is addicted to books, Häagen-Dazs® Coffee Almond Crunch ice cream bars, and jasmine tea. Sandra posts photos on Instagram, writes sporadically on her blog, and is a contributing writer and social media team manager for Tweetspeak Poetry. Her daughter is diagnosed with Crohn’s and RA.
30 Creative Ways
Pause. Seek. Notice.
Be aware of the people around you. Observe the tender prompting of the Spirit. Be intentionally kind and discover what God will do.