This #thankyouthursday, I am grateful for houseguests.
Specifically, I am grateful for the understanding that houseguests are meant to be welcomed, no matter who they are.
I am in part referring to the Rumi poem
I hope you are already familiar with the words of “The Guest House,” but just in case you’re not I will place them here, because it is just that important of a poem:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I am also referring to white supremacists
The Rumi poem was the focal point of a sermon I heard last Sunday.
The minister, the Rev. Jeanne Pupke, did not mince words. She leads a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Richmond, Virginia, where a Confederate group plans to hold a rally this weekend.
“Did you think that dealing with the aftermath of being the capital of the Confederacy was optional?” she asked the congregation.
Rather than reacting with upset or surprise that injustice remains, she suggested that radical welcoming was appropriate.
“What a great honor for us to be able to invite them in and treat them with respect,” Pupke said of the expected protestors, who wish for a large statue of Robert E. Lee to remain standing on a prominent avenue.
She made it clear that the purpose of a planned counter-demonstration is simply to stand with love, and with “no hate for the people who hold views other than ours. None.”
And yet, she continued, there is also no excuse for not doing the work of holding forth a new vision.
“We should be happy and privileged to be the ones being asked to do this work,” she said.
Welcoming houseguests can be hard
I know how to welcome houseguests of the Rumi variety. Joy, sorrow, shame—bring it.
I am willing to receive whatever comes, to witness, to be guided. I am willing to be cleared out for new delights.
White supremacists are harder for me to invite inside.
But what I heard on Sunday helped.
Because as Rev. Pupke pointed out, white supremacy in America does not need an invitation. It is already “sitting in our living room, controlling the remote.”
That’s not my fault, or yours.
And yet, the houseguests are here.
So what will we choose to do?
Welcoming houseguests is imperative
Having just spent a couple weeks away from home, I am hyperaware of how it feels to be a houseguest.
I spent time with unfamiliar communities, among people who did not know me but who welcomed me anyway.
As the guest, I was vulnerable. I did not possess the power that comes with belonging.
And yet I received acceptance.
It would have been easy for others to label me an outsider. In fact, they did.
In fact, it was precisely my status as outsider that prompted the warm welcomes. Which is exactly why the outreach meant so much to me.
It felt so comforting it felt to be offered connection, to be included.
I think that’s what all of us are craving, deep down. Even those who feel hate and fear and want to cast blame on others.
Especially those who feel hate and fear and want to cast blame on others.
Because regardless of our perceptions, the truth is we’re all connected. Including white supremacists.
We can do hard things with warm welcomes
If I were still in Richmond this weekend, I like to think that I’d show up at the Robert E. Lee statue to welcome my fellow humans whose views so dramatically differ from my own.
I can’t say with confidence that I would have done so, a fact that I confessed to Rev. Pupke after the Sunday service.
She told me, “at least you’re aware.”
And that is true. It doesn’t feel like enough, but it is a start for sure, and I am preparing for more.
As I continue to hold on to truth and take actions, I will work on my welcoming, too.
I would like to do that with you.
Because, after all, if you are reading these words, you are a houseguest in my heart, just as I am one on your screen.
We have work to do, you and I, and that is indeed an honor.
Let us welcome what’s to come, and be grateful for it—for together we can create anew.
Love > fear,