by Anton Flores-Maisonet
I have a hypothesis: the more “Black Lives Matter” signs there are in a neighborhood, the more black residents have been displaced from that very neighborhood by gentrification. When I feel snarky, I’m prone to think I should create a sign that says “Gentrification: Black Lives Scatter.”
Hospitality is a spiritual practice that reveals what our hearts believe.
Hospitality is a spiritual practice that reveals what our hearts believe. The problem is we often wear culturally-prescribed blinders. Bigots who love Jesus don’t see their own racism and don’t see Jesus in those they despise. Conversely, many progressives excel at intellectualizing their ideals but live segregated and siloed lives that often only intersect with a diversity that is often just as educated as they are. And then there’s a third group – compassionate do-gooders whose acts of white saviorism can keep them from the deep work of critical reflection on systems of oppression and the unearned privilege that accompanies their good intentions.
Welcoming asylum seekers is the gift of a mirror for me. It reflects what I truly believe about those often trampled by a world of disparity and injustice. I have to confront my First World privilege. I must listen past my prejudices, validate my guests’ reality and resilience, and realize that I am a humble witness to predominantly Black and Brown folks nonviolently asserting their God-given dignity and demanding reparations via migration.
Hospitality also unveils what we believe about God.
Not only does hospitality help us reveal what we truly believe about others, but hospitality also unveils what we believe about God.
I recently broke bread with a guest named “Joaquín.” We had gone to a restaurant that served food from Joaquín’s home country, and at this welcome table, Joaquín opened his heart and shared the tragic news of his father’s recent murder. Out of fear for his life, Joaquín fled to the United States. However, because he could not afford to bring his children, his young adult daughter now cares for her teenage brother – alone.
As Joaquín savored a taste of home, he expressed a potpourri of grief, gratitude, and a tinge of guilt. Joaquín was confident God was guiding him against all odds. Joaquín described his liberation from immigration detention as a psalmist who lauds God’s divine intervention would do. “A thousand may be deported at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you.”
But Joaquín deeply misses his children. He feels an urgency to repay the debts of his journey and also needs to send remittances to his kids. He feels guilt over leaving his children back in a place that he both loves and now fears, but he can only hope that the mighty hand of God will continue to uphold them all. In that moment of vulnerability, I can only offer my wholehearted presence and hold Joaquín in the Light and pray, “Joaquín, God holds all of you – your children, your hopes, and even your fears, for you are God’s beloved.”
Photograph of “person looking into a mirror” by An Min. CC0 Public Domain