Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ll be using manicules (those pointing finger symbols) to direct your attention to something I’m pondering that delights or interests me. Each entry is somehow related to an unusual, obscure, or simply charming to me word.
xenodochial – hospitable; kindly to strangers
I like this word. I like the concept. And while it’s somewhat tempting to jump up on my soapbox and talk about all the ways we fail at this collectively – in our treatment of refugees, the homeless, those who need our protection and assistance – that really isn’t the path I want to travel today.
Instead, I’ve been reflecting on a number of incidents in my life where a xenodochial stranger really made a difference. Mostly in the scheme of things these interactions would seem small, and yet, clearly they weren’t small if I remember them, so many years later. I send an offering of gratitude and appreciation out to every stranger who has so blessed me. Thank you!
There are of course those instances when help and kindness given is quite literal, and I’m profoundly grateful for those, particularly those received when I was a child and finding navigating this world to be almost unbearably challenging. And then there are the cases where simply passing someone on the street who says hello or smiles or shares eye contact; someone whose presence just somehow shifts things – those are gifts I’m grateful for as well. So many kindnesses, so many ways to deliver them.
But the thing I’ve really been reflecting on is how important times have been when I’ve seen someone being kind and helpful to another, and the impact it has had on me. Again, many of these moments were time when I was younger, and they modeled for ways of being in the world I hadn’t been exposed to. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying my life was terrible and I needed role models for kindness. Rather I’m saying witnessing kindness felt like it opened something in me in how I saw the world in operation. It provided little pings that said, yes, more of that please. Yes, look – there is someone who saw something you didn’t see, and their response has now awakened you. That can be part of your response now.
Of course, I know we’re all exposed to these things, and we all have our own unique ways of integrating what we see and learn, and not only do I think that’s perfect but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
But for me all these lessons, all these observations, all these gifts of receiving, can be marshalled into one question – are we operating out of a paradigm of separation or embracing unity consciousness? Do we recognize our connection to all things, or are we working furiously to maintain artificial boundaries?
The more busy our lives grow and the more plugged into our devices we become it seems just a natural result that we connect less with those who aren’t part of our intimate circles. We have to pay attention to that and make efforts shift that.
I really love what artist Paul Chan invokes we do upon meeting someone new. He suggests telling them the following:
“Our modern age is characterized by a sadness which calls for a new kind of prophet. Not the prophets of old who reminded people that they were going to die, but someone who will remind them that they are not dead yet. Do not be embarrassed. Do not be afraid.”
Isn’t that marvelous? Don’t you think that’s truly xenodochial? Aren’t these calls to take ourselves out of our hypnotized states of habit the most positive ways we can encourage each other?
Thinking about this also reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago. Someone who was not a native English speaker was explaining to me about blessings/greetings Jewish people offer one another during the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. What I understood them to say was “May you be inscribed for goodness.” And I thought this was the most wonderful blessing ever – I imagined being written on in a way that created in me the possibility of being a vehicle for goodness.
Of course that isn’t really what was meant at all by the expression. Even though I have a better comprehension now of the actual intent of the blessing, I still think my original understanding is a glorious and most perfect xenodochial blessing one can bestow upon strangers and friends alike.
May we all be inscribed for goodness. And may we spend more of our time and energy knowing we’re all connected in unity, and simply celebrate our differences as unique expressions we’re choosing to explore.
What do you think? Has a stranger ever showed you a kindness that impacted you? Have you done that for someone? Have a blessing you delight in? Do tell – you know I love to hear.