I live in a hospitality house. Living in a hospitality house has become a more frequent choice for Christians lately, sort of in the way that kale has experienced a resurgence over the past few years: having people think you eat a lot of kale is generally preferred to actually eating a lot of kale.
People call us with some regularity to talk about living in a hospitality house. They want to know what it is like and whether they can come visit and whether they should start one too. If there is one thing you should know about living in a hospitality house, it is that it is risky to live in a hospitality house. Here are some reasons why it is risky:
- Lots of people will call you to talk about living in a hospitality house. Some of them will come to visit, and eventually a few of them will want to stay. But the ones who stay are never the ones you want to stay. They will make you crazy in ways you never thought you could be crazy. You can’t prepare for the ways they will challenge and convict you and make you grow when you’d rather be left alone.
- You won’t be able to ask for good Christmas presents anymore because you believe in simplicity. Without asking, you’ll instead get poems to hang on your refrigerator and a new puppy with fleas because your neighbor has to move out and can’t take her dog. This will start to grow on you and you’ll realize you like poetry.
- You’ll become rather disenchanted with normal American Christianity. You’ll have to explain this to your uncle at the next family reunion, and that won’t go well. But even as you are questioning contemporary Christianity, you’ll be falling in love with ancient people that you had never heard of before.
- You’ll have to name and claim your privilege and power. Once you name it, you won’t be able to pretend it is not there anymore. You’ll have to do something with your privilege, and it will probably be to try and divest yourself of it. This will be delightfully frustrating.
- At some point you may be called on to help provide the entertainment for a neighbor’s rent party. You may even be called on to be the entertainment for a neighbor’s rent party. Also, at some point you will need to host a rent party for yourself.
- Your old friends are going to think you are interesting, even admirable, but you may notice some distance after you make the move. Your new friends will be poor, so you won’t be going to movies and bars anymore like you did with your old friends. But, you’ll wind up laughing longer and crying more with your new friends than you would at any movie or bar. Plus, at least one of your new friends will be an outstanding cook and far more generous than you deserve.
- A housemate who really loves the earth will go crazy over kale. You’ll have to eat kale four times a day until you start to think you might like it. This will trouble you.
- People will start to call you a radical. You will like this, though you will wonder whether the people who call you that take you very seriously. You will laugh at the idea of being a radical when you realize the thing you do most frequently is wash dishes.
- At some point, living in a hospitality house will start to seem normal. You’ll grow to love your neighbors, which means that losing them to eviction or early death or violence or incarceration – all of which will be related to racial and economic oppression in some form – will wipe away all the romance of living in a hospitality house. The depth of your grief will surprise you. You’ll need those new friends to get through it, and maybe the old ones as well.
- You will meet Jesus again and again, and you’ll be surrounded by people who will expect you to follow him. This will not bode well for your future economic prospects, nor your ability to be well-adjusted in the world. You will begin to realize that this is Good News.
These are not the only reasons why living in a hospitality house is risky. There are many more. Call if you’d like to hear some, or just stop by for supper. We eat at six, and we’re having kale.