The Meaning of Hospitality

hospitality (noun) 1. Cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests.

Last week, I went on my third annual silent retreat at the Society of Saint John the Evangelist’s home north of the city. I continue to be in awe of how welcoming and hospitable this monastic community is.

I love living in a city, yet I seem to effortlessly fall into the rhythm of working, eating, worshiping, reading, and sleeping when at Emery House.








It is such a welcome change to unplug from the world and have no daily obligations except for working in the garden, attending a few services, and eating three meals.

I reveled in the simple acts of gardening, eating in silence, and reading in the library. I read two thought-provoking books: I brought Taking Our Places with me and found A Year to Live in Emery House’s library. The gist of both books is the importance of making peace with the past and being mindful and engaged in the present. I have a lot of work to do regarding the latter.

I am prescribing myself more time in nature. It’s so easy to focus on the present moment when one is watching two birds chase each other or contemplating the beauty of a flower.








I attended three services per day, which had me pondering the meaning of faith and what role it plays in my life. In recent years, I’ve felt more “spiritual,” not subscribing to any one religion. One of my favorite quotes from the Dalai Lama is:

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

Instead of attending church on Sundays, I volunteer at an animal shelter. I guess I express my faith through volunteering.

What role does faith play in your life?




Somebody Loves You

A few weeks ago, I volunteered for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention‘s national Overnight Walk for the second time. In solidarity with the walkers, I took the 12:00 to 6:30 am shift.

I walked into a disorganized situation because of the weather. It had been raining for hours and it wasn’t about to stop. In nice weather, tents are set up on a big plaza at City Hall. So most of the tables, signs, etc. had been crammed into City Hall.

The route of the walk, which is usually around 17 miles, had been shortened due to weather-related safety concerns. So when I arrived, walkers were starting to cross the finish line. I didn’t have a set job because of the turn of events, so I stood at the finish line to cheer on the walkers for a while.

The walkers were soaked. Some were excited and grateful as they approached the finish line. Others were exhausted and limping. I witnessed a marriage proposal, which was sweet.

My next task was to help a woman find her luminaria. Luminaria are paper bags that walkers can decorate with messages for and photos of the loved ones they’ve lost to suicide. Once decorated, battery-operated tea lights are put inside and they are displayed by the finish line. Some people choose to put out their luminaria before the walk, and some bring them on the walk and put them out afterward.

Because of the rain, luminaria were placed in a number of random spots. Outside, inside, 20 there, 50 there. The woman I was helping showed me a photo of her luminaria. On it she had written some inspirational thoughts in black Sharpie. I registered the second one, “Somebody Loves You.”

She took the inside; I took the outside. There were approximately 1,800 bags, so I wasn’t hopeful. Like the last time I volunteered, I was surprised by the range of people who had lost their fight against suicide. Parents, children, spouses, friends. One person had lost his fight in 1981 and another had lost his fight a mere six weeks earlier.

I didn’t find the woman’s luminaria. I somehow was able to find her again inside and offered an apology. I felt an urge to look around inside myself. Within five minutes, I found her luminaria. Holding it to my chest, I practically ran to where I had left her, and thankfully she was still there. We exchanged some happy words and a hug.

By about 4:00 am, the last walker had finished. Everyone who was staying for breakfast and the closing ceremony was sprawled across rooms and hallways on the first floor of City Hall. I spent the next hour or two on garbage duty, picking up discarded breakfast items. Exhaustion, sorrow, and relief hung like a cloud over everyone.

At the closing ceremony, a young man who had attempted suicide spoke, and a musician who had lost her sibling sang a song. The AFSP CEO announced that the walkers had raised more than $3 million in that one evening.

I left exhausted but happy that I had helped AFSP in a small way. Please read these statistics and never be afraid to ask loved ones if they feel like hurting themselves. Let’s bring mental health issues into the light.

Message at the finish line
Message at the finish line

Story Hour

A friend and I saw one of our childhood heroes the other day: Judy Blume. She’s touring the country for her new novel, In the Unlikely Event.

I haven’t read any of her books in decades, but when I heard that she was coming to my neighborhood bookstore, I had. to. go.

I remembered loving her books: Freckle Juice, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge. I have a vivid two-second-long memory of checking out Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret at my school library.

Judy was witty and charming, and now I have a desire to reread some of her books. I don’t remember reading Forever and apparently I have been missing out all of these years.

Thinking about her books has reminded me of how much I loved to read when I was young. I remember reading 50+ books in one summer. Favorites that I remember: Little House on the Prairie series, Chronicles of Narnia Series, anything by Judy Blume, anything by Beverly Cleary, Anne of Green Gables series, Betsy-Tacy series, Baby-sitters Club series, Amelia Bedelia series, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl…

Over the years, I’ve found less and less time to read. But I still love buying books and subscribing to magazines.











This is the current state of my main bookshelf and magazine shelf = overflowing. So I’ve decided to schedule an “adult story hour” a few times per week. I spend way too much time in front of a computer.

How much time do you set aside for reading each week?