FIRST-PERSON: Hotel-heightened hospitality

by Anteneshia Sanders, posted Friday, July 19, 2019 (one month ago)

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- I didn't think much about hotels until I started working at one.

Crisp linens, a TV, hopefully breakfast and some of those tiny lotions -- what else was there to think about?

A whole lot more, I've learned.

Aside from the preparation involved in making sure everybody has a comfortable place to rest, we also learn to practice empathy. Our guests come from all over for all kinds of reasons.

I've watched families come together for every event possible -- weddings (so many weddings), funerals and reunions. Business travelers who spend the week away from their families darken our sliding doors weekly and settle into home away from home. The nations come to us. Sometimes people will stay for months at a time. Those guests often become friends, knowing us by name and shift.

When I recognized what my job really was, it changed the way I saw work. As a believer, hospitality could never just be an industry to me. Hospitality is wrapped up in Christ's call to love my neighbor. The goal to make people feel welcomed and valued is prefaced by their dignity and value as image-bearers of God. Work, then, has become a joy as God has allowed me in on sharing His heart for us through genuine service. This is a Gospel gateway disguised as career.

Compartmentalizing my "work life" and my "real life" is hard to do, especially in hospitality. My love for God and for people should flow naturally into this specific line of work. Knowing that work is never "just work" keeps me working unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23), serving those He brings past our desk and giving them a glimpse of the divine hospitality of God. He is the one who invites us into true rest.

I often think of Hebrews 13:2 when I'm working: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." I'm not sure if I've ever encountered any angels, but I have been blessed plenty of times. Believing guests have encouraged me in the Lord. Guests have told me their stories, their eyes filled with tears. I've done a lot of listening and a lot of praying. What a grace to be able to petition God for a stranger. I may never see any of these people again, but I don't want to miss the opportunity to be a part of what God is doing in their lives, nor do I want to miss a blessing.

Yes, we have difficult guests, and that's hard. But it doesn't take long to find out they just had a rough week at the office or are about to bury a loved one. Even still, sometimes people are just difficult for difficulty's sake. God has been gentle and patient with me in my worst moments, so I can extend that same kind of courtesy for a moment.

Managing hospitality

I've recently been afforded the opportunity to step into a management position. While the promotion has given me a new level of responsibility, I also have new opportunities to practice hospitality.

Supervising a team of people can be challenging. However, my coworkers need my empathy just as much, if not more, than our guests. Hospitality can be hard enough by itself, let alone when it's your 9-to-5, remembering when it's good to say:

"Thank you."

"Great job today."

"I know this is hard, what can I do to help you?"

"How are you?"

"How is _____ going?"

"Take a break."

"Have you eaten today?"

"Do you have everything you need?"

I get to open my door and my life to those with whom I work. When conversations extend past room status and elite guests, I have the opportunity to share the reason for the hope I have. I get to let them in on a peace that is unshakeable, regardless of the day's pressures.

Christ went out of His way to serve us. He left glory to come and wash our feet. He was obedient to death -- death in our place -- and has gone to prepare a place for us. That, friends, is hospitality. This is our example of kindness and sacrifice.

While our human acts of kindness are just a shadow, they echo the divine. Yours may not be a career of crisp linens and tiny lotions, but God calls us all to hospitality. How can you leverage your job in a way that welcomes people in? Do your employees find you approachable and safe? Are there changes you can make or conversations you can start that will make these things so?

God is faithful. His hospitality toward us is a perfect supply -- enough to give to those around us.

Anteneshia Sanders is a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary pursuing an M.A. in ministry to women and author of "I Still Can't Swim." This article first appeared at the seminary's Intersect Project website, intersectproject.org.
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