The toaster has been missing for several days now. My first thought was that we really should start locking our back door. My second thought was, who would steal a toaster? But then I remembered that I said something hospitable to some guests recently and I hadn’t thought through all the potential ramifications of it. I told them to take whatever they needed. I guess they needed a toaster.
Don’t get me wrong. I could care less about our toaster.
I think the best guests are people who actually take me at my word when I tell them that if they need anything just rummage and take it.
But guests like these are rare. So when they show up I’m still a little surprised. It takes me off guard. While I give nearly everyone who arrives permission to treat my home as his or her own, only a few people actually do. And when people do, that’s when they begin to feel like more than guests, or friends of friends. That’s when they feel like family. And I like having family around.
We’ve had a lot of this lately. We’ve put the commune in community around our place. We’ve had one boarder, one extended houseguest, and a handful of friends of friends taking turns staying in a room in our garage for months. By my count, we had an all-time high total of 12 people on the commune grounds one day last week. It was a flurry of piles of shoes at the door, dishes in the kitchen, and chatter. Friends took up every bed, couch, towel, and chocolate chip cookie in the place. And while a spot on the chair with the cat, and her hair, isn’t exactly the most welcoming of guest accommodations, I hope all these folks did, in fact, feel welcome—because they really are.
My particular challenge in this commune environment is usually finding a way not to let things get in the way of opening my home—which for me is so close to opening my heart. Often my heart is sad, and I don’t feel like opening it. But being with people is usually the best remedy for that. And if I can remember that it feels good to commune, I push through and have company. More often company pushes me. And I thank God for them.
We began to open our doors again last summer, after a long season of not being able to extend much hospitality.
We had been dealing with trauma, a family member’s major depression, and hospitalizations. So it felt strange to welcome people. It felt strange to smile, to listen to funny stories. It felt like a betrayal to have laughter in the house again. But it also felt refreshing. At first, I was terrified. But turns out that not everything goes horribly wrong. And the people we’ve had staying here have brought more people. They come to eat, to watch games, to have beers on the patio, and to soak in the hot tub. And so I get to do all those things, too, or at least to watch other people enjoying life—which gives me hope that it can be enjoyed again.
I get the idea from my commune that I don’t have to sulk in a threadbare sweater of sadness. I can wrap a metaphorical blanket of hospitality around a friend’s shoulders and share it together. And then, especially then, I can understand what people are talking about when they say that God is always right here with me. Because when I find a stray glass on a bookshelf, then I remember where God is. He is right here. He’s sending all these people my way so we can commune. He wants me to feel connected, to love and be loved.
Rebecca Barnes is married to an amazing man, who encourages her faith and listens to her typing a lot. She has three daughters and a son-in-law. She loves to cook for anyone who likes good food, and she feels competitive about weeding her flower garden. She lives in Old Town Lafayette because it’s a little eclectic, like her.