When we picture hospitality, there is an assumptive mental leap we often make. We picture the “typical” hospitality practices such as hosting parties or setting a table or cooking dinner for our family. But there is a specific kind of hospitality, occurring in the sweeping swells of life, where we are called to serve and care for others in unique ways. I like to refer to these occasions as life’s major moments.
A major moment can be defined as a rare event, either celebratory or sad, that brings heightened emotions and a greater place of need for the person experiencing the event. Major moments can be joyous or mournful. They can be anticipated or sudden. They can be short-lived or ongoing. It is the degree of need they create, starkly different than the everyday, that sets major moments apart.
Major moments can include an engagement, a wedding, the birth of a child, a graduation, a promotion, an acceptance letter, good news from the doctor, a new home.
Major moments can also include a death, a diagnosis, the loss of a job, a divorce, a miscarriage, an accident, a rejection letter, a relapse.
No one lives a life free from major moments. We all experience them, although with differing levels of intensity and frequency. Major moments are the pivotal points in our life when we find ourselves most desperately in need. Major moments are also the pivotal points in our relationships with others where we are called to step into their places of desperate need with service and care.
Providing care and serving others during a major moment is the great honor and calling in the arc of a relationship. We meet. We become friends. We become better friends. We laugh. We conflict. We resolve. We dig deep. We embrace vulnerability. And then, one day, in the course of our relationship, we experience a major moment.
To care and serve someone we love in the midst of a major moment is not a burden. It is an honor. It is the privilege of those on the inner circle to draw in close to the person and help provide what they cannot provide on their own.
Celebratory moments are sweeter when shared with other joyful faces who know and understand the weight of the moment. Glasses clink, smiles stretch wide, arms embrace, elation is electric and effervescent.
Tragic moments are less lonely when surrounded by hearts that weep and hurt as though the loss is their own. Tears fall, embraces linger, countenances stager, empathy walks into the grief without hesitation.
We are built for relationship, hard-wired for connection, and designed for loving community. The magnitude of our need for kindred spirits is never more clearly felt than during major moments. It is for times such as these that relationships are formed. It is for life’s major moments that we invest in friends that feel like family and spend time with those who understand our hearts and would protect our interests at great cost to themselves. It is for life’s major moments that we invest in people and allow them to see the real us, because at some point, for all of us, the walls will come down, and our hearts will be exposed. Better to be seen and known when major moments come our way, then to be alone with our experience.
Hospitality is the life blood of caring and serving others during a major moment. Anticipating need, expressing love, and creating space are never a more powerful triad of action than in the context of serving and caring during a major moment. When the one we love is lost in the confusion of the moment, the whirlwind of the day, or the exhaustion of the experience, we step in with clear vision and eyes to see what they may miss.
Do they have their physical needs met in a way that does not create more trouble?
Are there tasks that can be easily taken care of to eliminate distractions or unnecessary toil?
Has anyone sat with them and asked all the questions that allow them to gush, scream, giggle, mourn?
Do they have tangible reminders that they are not alone?
Has the responsibility of seeking out connection been taken off of their plate (“Call me if you need anything!”) and put squarely on the backs of those who love them dearly (“I am going to call you tomorrow to check on you.”)?
The number of ways to care of serve someone during their major moments is infinite and unique to the person and their situation. However, the philosophy and heart behind it is singular. In hospitality, we seek to create space for change without being the change. We accept that we cannot create change, control outcomes, or orchestrate feelings. But we can create space. We can anticipate need. We can express love.
Stepping into joy or pain in the life of those we love is sacred, yet scary. So many emotions. And so many variables. What if I do it wrong? Or what if I make it worse? Or what if I bother them? Or what if they don’t want me there?
I think it’s okay to feel this way, to have these questions. But I also think it is imperative to find the courage to move forward despite the feelings and doubts. To err on the side of love and let go of any expectations is to pursue a greater good than our comfort for the sake of loving another well. Like anything new or uncomfortable, the first time might be treacherous. But you will learn and become better able to lean in and love with a wide open heart, even if it feels frightening to do so.
Serving others during life’s major moments is the crowning jewel of hospitality, when all of our endeavors merge into an opportunity to bear burdens and help carry the load of those we love. Major moments open the door for us to serve and care with pointed purpose. We walk in partnership with those who fill our life with connection and meaning, and that partnering provides us the gift of learning to love well and serve each other with care.