Thank you for your hostility

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Ooops! I meant hospitality.

Amazing. Leave out just the tiniest bit and hospitality becomes hostility. And the tiny missing bits don’t even mean anything by themselves: p, i and a. That proves little things do count.

But hospitality isn’t always easy. Someone once said, “Hospitality is making your guests feel like they’re at home, even if you wish they were.”

Or, as a friend once advised when I complained about guests who had stayed too long, way into the night, I should have turned to my wife and said in a most kindly way, “Why don’t we go to bed now dear, so our guests can go home?” That’s the hospitable way to say, “Git!”

True hospitality begins with kindness, but even kindness can be hard to understand. Some foreign customs may seem more weird than kind, so it is good to assume the best no matter how confused you are. Consider these examples…

  • Your host in some Russian homes will show his hospitality by challenging you to stand face to face and trade shots of vodka until one of you falls down. Refusal to accept this hospitality is, naturally, rude… no matter how wise it would be to refuse if you need to catch an early flight back to the USA the next morning.
  • An ancient and especially hospitable greeting still honored in some parts of Tibet occurs when your host sticks his tongue out at you. It is wise to return the favor. A black tongue would supposedly betray an evil person’s nature. Be nice and acknowledge your host’s virtuous tongue.
  • Hospitality among the Massai tribes of Kenya is shown with a dance requiring host and guest to hop as high as possible, and then welcome the guest with a bowl of milk mixed with a bit of the cow’s blood. Good taste and good flavor are not synonymous in this case.

But hospitality is not really that hard to understand. Dictionaries usually define it as, “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”
My favorite part of the definition is the word strangers. In a world of coarsening behavior and values, “friendly and generous’ treatment of strangers could be a real game changer. And it would feel good, too.

The most ancient and revered of our holy books* makes the same request: “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
Sometimes our community offers us examples of hospitality, even in the world of business. This week the Jamestown Gazette invites our readers to consider an example of institutionalized hospitality. Wayside inns, hostels and hotels have set the finest examples for ages, so join us in celebrating a brand new example, the grand opening of Celoron’s new Chautauqua Harbor Hotel.

Of course, it is a business, but it can be a reminder that for some people with a passion for hospitality, it is possible to do quite well by doing good, by making their guests, both weary travelers and holiday revelers, feel right at home no matter how far they are from home.
The late poet, Maya Angelou, once said, “People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Please experience this issue of the Jamestown Gazette as our kind of hospitality and enjoy the read.

— Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.