Hospitality

We have all heard older generations talk about the "good ol' days." If you could bring back a lost tradition, technology, culture, or a simple characteristic from people of the past, what would it be and why? How do you think this would affect society today? Why do you think that aspect of society was lost in the first place?

This past winter, my family and I had the misfortune of getting caught in one of the harsher snowstormes that DC has experienced in the past 20 years. My mother was driving my sister and I home during an abnormally dark afternoon when a light snow began to fall. At first we admired the delicate flakes on the windshield as we zipped down neighborhood back roads, but as we turned onto busy streets, both the weather and the traffic began to thicken. In the span of 10 minutes, the light snow which we had previously admired was now blanketing our car and everything around us. The empty roads had become rapidly clogged with lines of stagnant vehicles and angry drivers. The three of us were in a bit of a pickle.

For two hours, we remained frozen in place as the snow persisted. As our anger turned to panic, we decided to escape the major traffic by turning down a side street, sliding and stalling across hazardous road after hazardous road. Traffic had devolved from an organized line into scattered vehicles, facing every which way all across the streets; some were abandoned, others were stuck in drifts. We coasted along icy paths until we finally stopped in front of a modest, red brick cottage, with light illuminating from its windows. Emerging from the comfortable home was a middle aged couple. They greeted us with thick Irish accents, and immediately invited us to stay at their house for the night.

It was this offer that puzzled me the most about the predicament. Naturally, my mom politely rejected the offer as preposterous, proposing to walk the remaining 6 miles to our house-- all while the storm raged onward with full force. For a span of two minutes, the five of us (the couple and us three) maintained the offer out of common courtesy: we would throw out a stupid, potentially dangerous option to avoid "burdening" the Irish couple, and the couple insisted that we stay over out of general kindness. Finally, the three of us caved, and we spent the night with a stranger's roof over our heads.

At the time I was just appreciative that I wasn't sleeping in a snowy mound, but since then, the gesture has sparked legitimate thought. It took a natural calamity for hospitality between socially dependent creatures-- people-- to occur. In the "good ol' days", when 30 mile trips wasn't as easy as a tank of gas and 40 minutes, hospitality was something of a social obligation. Travelers came and went, and anyone who could would provide for them what they needed. In fact, our country was built off of hospitality. When the west was still wild, pilgrimage was so commonplace and land was so vast that hospitality united what was an otherwise divided time. The 3rd amendment of our constitution even states that when given a feasible situation, a soldier can take shelter at any home in America.

But since then, the world has become a very different place. The wonder of modern technology has shrunk our planet exponentially. Travel is no longer a life long pursuit, it is a minor inconvenience. And with all of the ease of current transportation, the need to take shelter has diminished entirely. Hospitality is no more, and we have our own innovation and inventiveness to blame.

Since that bizarre sleep over, I have not come across any instance of hospitality between strangers again, and I likely never will. Relying on people that we don't know can often be a dangerous decision, but there is a certain amount of gratitude that comes with spontaneous generosity like the Irish couple provided. For one night, my city felt like a community, and the people within it weren't just faces, they were people.





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