Hey there! Are you still with us? I’m reading this book for the third time, and I still find myself having to read it slowly, with a highlighter in my hand. I’m wondering what you’re thinking. Has the book captured your attention? Is it making you think differently, or is it frustrating you? As always, I’m wondering what your takeaways might be from this section of the book.
This time around, I was intrigued to read Palmer’s story about his visit to the church in Americus, Georgia. I know that church. Well, not that exact church, but I know churches like that one. I’ve sat in those Sunday School classrooms. My husband has served as the pastor of churches like these. The church in Charleston, S.C., where nine members of a bible study class lost their lives was so very much like the church in Americus, Georgia. In the margins, on page 39 of my hardcover copy of the book, I wrote, Charleston, S.C. next to this passage:
Long before these parishioners began learning Robert’s Rules of Order, they had cultivated another habit of the heart that is key to creating community with people who are not of our tribe: a spirit of hospitality to the stranger. For evidence, look no farther than the warm welcome they gave me, a stranger who bore all the external marks of the overlords who had oppressed them since the founding o this country. No habit of the hear is more crucial to making “We the People” a reality than extending hospitality to those who appear alien to us.
Reading that passage, with the knowledge of events at Mother Emanuel AME Church reminded me that practicing the habits of the heart which Palmer advocates is no guarantee that all will end well. After all, as he so aptly points out, it is from the heart that we are motivated to both good and evil. But, each of us can be responsible for the habits of our own hearts and the values we allow to be cultivated there.
My hope, as we read this book together, is that we’ll be able to rise above either/or thinking. Either/or thinking shuts down the practice of hospitality. I believe hospitality is a key for us, here. The issues we face today require us to be open to the “others” around us. In fact, the tenuous nature of our current political situation requires us to stop thinking in terms of “others.” We are being challenged to be both/and people in a world that screams for us to choose our side and fight the other team to the death. We can do better than that.
Next week, the first of the debates between the Democratic and Republican candidates for President will be televised live. I am challenging myself to practice hospitality toward all of the players—the candidates, the moderators, the media, the pundits—as I watch. I’ve created an event on Facebook for those of you who would like to join me. We can watch the debate together and talk about what we’re hearing, seeing, thinking, and feeling. If you’d like to take part, even if just for a few minutes, use this link to request a spot.
Today, in the comments, share your takeaways from Chapter Two, and let us know if you’ll be joining the conversation on Monday.