Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Last week I attended an open board meeting for a local organization just starting up. Keep an eye out for them; I think they are going to do some really good things. I first met one of their board members at the US Attorney’s office human trafficking task force meeting. This group is following the model of Thistle Farms based in Nashville to assist survivors of trafficking and prostitution. That in and of itself is noteworthy and I encourage you to learn more about Thistle Farms and what’s unfolding here in the Midwest. They are trying to meet an unmet need in this unfinished world. And this need is loaded with judgments and assumptions about the persons who will be seeking their care and support.
But what really impressed me was the courage this group has. They announced their board meeting on Facebook and invited people to join them. All were welcome at their table. I and a colleague from our coalition on human trafficking wanted to attend to see where we could develop partnerships and how we can lift up one another’s work. They were definitely focused on getting their project up and running. They were very welcoming to us strangers at their table and after opening the meeting with a beautiful reflective prayer, the board voted to give all visitors voice during the meeting. In fact, they literally moved chairs to make room so all of us sat together, board memebrs and guests side by side, no clear distinctions made.
This was not a public information session, the glossy show and tell. This was a sleeves rolled up, getting into the detailed business kind of board meeting and we were truly welcome at the table. They talked about budgets, fundraisers, unmet needs of the organization and the challenges ahead. It was only at the very end of the meeting that they even learned what brought us there, so I don’t doubt the authenticity of their interactions. Not that I am equating myself to an angel, but they were open to entertaining angels. And we were welcomed and affirmed. Plus it looks like some wonderful opportunities for collaboration in the near future.
I’ve worked with a lot of non-profits and community groups over the years and very few are willing to let outsiders witness their private business, especially when it comes to dollars and the messiness of strategic planning and development. And sometimes as we – even spiritual and religious folks – are trying to find our way forward in areas beyond our ken we don’t always have our best self at the table. And rarely do want witnesses. Often we like to hide that from public view and keep it to a few trusted souls who are down in the trenches with us. I’m extremely grateful for the model this group is providing.
Think about some of the groups you’ve been in. Stepping out, starting something like this is difficult, time consuming. Sometimes when we peace and justice types wade into waters unknown, in our fear of failure and the weight of the work’s importance, we lose our peaceful intentions in those closed sessions. Compromised decisions that we don’t want public witness to and sometimes – yes, even hurtful and thoughtless comments are flung at one another as conflict erupts. This is inevitable in any group, without conflict we don’t grow individually or collectively; but it’s how we handle conflict that decides peace or war, right relationship or dysfunction and hurt.
None of that happened in this meeting but that willingness to let others see the messy side of “saving the world” is unbelievably courageous – and oh so powerful of a teacher. What would this world look like if more of us were willing to be that transparent and open in our works? What if, as organizations, we acknowledged our humanity and focused on intention and process, sharing our lessons learned beyond the inner circles?
In their invitation this group just said they were everyday people trying to get something they felt important started. And while on one hand they were everyday people with caring hearts and combined talents that will make Magdalene House a reality, they are also extraordinary in their gift to me and the community. They are showing us that we can be open and trust in God and one another. We don’t have to be afraid to be human as we stumble together because our intentions are good and together in Spirit all things are possible.
Encouraged on the path,