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Home : Feed Your Spirit : Your Life, Better
10 ways to invite others into your life

Edited by Andy Lang

Inspired by Encounters at the Counter: What Congregations Can Learn About Hospitality from Business by Alan Johnson, © 2009 The Pilgrim Press.

Remember that your spirituality is based on your relationships.

You meet the Holy in relationships. Your spirituality shows through connections. Henri Nouwen writes that the spiritual life means "the nurturing of the eternal amid the temporal, the lasting within the passing." Welcoming the day, welcoming the one next to you, living fully in the present moment: these are all spiritual paths.

Hospitality is taking time for making room.

 There are many ways to make room for others in your life: through prayer, through silence, through nature, through reading, writing, yoga, music, fishing, a movie, a meal enjoyed with friends and family, a meal served to the hungry. Be attentive during these experiences, and leave them with the prayer that the openness you felt during this time apart can flow into all of your relationships.

Remember that we can welcome others because God first welcomed us.

You can love God because God first loved you (1 John 4:19), and because God has loved you from the beginning, you can love others. Divine love can shape your life and your relationships. Remind yourself every day that you are connected with God. Seeks ways to strengthen that connection, so God can strengthen and deepen the connections you have with others.

Make the most of the time you're given with others.


Relationships can be fleeting. You may have only a minute or two with the people you meet every day. Be attentive in these brief encounters. Practice awareness of the other. Coming and going is the rhythm of life.

Respect the boundaries that allow you to be yourself.

Boundaries are different from barriers. They are necessary for healthy relationships and for the practice of hospitality. Boundaries allow you to be true to yourself, and to allow others to be truly themselves. You can't be genuinely open to others if you lose yourself. You need to be fully yourself to be fully available to others.

Expect to be surprised.


"Serendipity" is "the phenomenon of finding something valuable that wasn't expected or sought." When you welcome others into your life, they will probably surprise you, and you will surprise them.

Pay attention.


You can offer hospitality even in brief encounters if you pay attention. Don't be distracted by the noise that surrounds you. Look directly at the other person and, holding your body still, be attentive. Be aware of the other person's face, voice, dress and manner. Remember that communication is non-verbal as well as verbal. Every encounter is unique.

Remember that hospitality is a two-way street.


By welcoming and accepting others, you create a space in which the other can welcome and accept you. You can experience a healing moment even if the encounter is brief. Your willingness to extend hospitality can bring out the best in others, and be a sign of the hospitality God offers to you every hour of every day.

Don't worry if you can't fix a problem.

 Hospitality doesn't require that you give advice or find solutions. It means patient listening, creating a space where others can open their heart. Sometimes companionship is all you can offer, and what the other person really needs.

Practice a light touch.


Not every encounter has to be pregnant with meaning. You can respect another person without trying to be his or her best friend. Hospitality also means responding to everyday, simple needs. The reason angels can fly, some say, is because they take themselves lightly.

About the Author

Inspired by Encounters at the Counter: What Congregations Can Learn About Hospitality from Business by Alan Johnson, © 2009 The Pilgrim Press.

Alan Johnson is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ and was formerly secretary of evangelism for spiritual and membership growth on the UCC's national staff. In Encounters at the Counter, Johnson weaves together personal stories from his work at the counter of a local bread company with his experience as a minister and developer of hospitality programs in local churches.


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