Editor’s note: As a part of FMS’ 2017 Advent blog series, missioner Anna Klonowski reflects on the moments of hospitality she’s experienced in Bolivia.
I have experienced hospitality this year on mission in so many new and unexpected ways. This makes me think of a quote from Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This rings true when I think of my own experiences while on mission. While I can only recall a few specific instances of hospitality, when I think about my time in Cochabamba thus far, I feel welcomed and accepted.
One special moment was the welcome the Cochabamba missioner community offered me when I first arrived in January. The community set aside time to celebrate my arrival, and the start of my journey here with a shared meal and a blessing ceremony.
I cherish that memory of hospitality. More important, however, than this one moment of hospitality is the feeling that has remained with me because of it. I feel comfortable with the people who helped me celebrate such a special time. When I see them during my daily life, I feel accepted, loved, and valued as an equal. The hospitality they showed months ago left an imprint on my heart that I carry with me to this day.
Another moment of hospitality I experienced was at Hogar San José, the nursing home I visit during the week. Early in my visits, I met a woman named Silvia, who invited me to share a mandarin orange with her and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, even though it was the last orange she had. Sharing an orange with me was much more than a simple gesture, it was the start of a friendship and a sign of love. That moment of hospitality paved the way for a mutual affection between us that has spanned the months we’ve spent in each other’s company.
Looking at my experiences more broadly, Bolivia and its people have surprised me with their hospitality. Time and again I’ve received a sincere welcome, no matter the circumstances. If there are four people invited to a gathering and six show up, there’s always more space, more food, more chairs and more love to give, even if the room is small, or the portions are cut in half, or the chair is actually a step stool. It’s a hospitality that makes an additional person feel like a long-lost family member instead of a burden, and makes it hard to leave a gathering even if it’s 2 a.m. and the party ended at 11 p.m.
Because of this generosity of spirit, my experience of hospitality has been so much bigger than the few instances I can recall. As I reflect on the people with whom I have shared in hospitality—a diverse group with different personalities, ages, cultures, languages and experiences—I feel welcomed, cherished, and loved. I know that these feelings have shaped my time here, and will stay with me in my life even as the individual memories of hospitality fade.
Reflection question: What are some moments of hospitality that will stay with you forever?