We often think of hospitality or welcoming strangers as meeting new persons. It is that but much more. Welcoming strangers is also welcoming new understanding of who we are, and more importantly whose we are. It also involves welcoming new experiences, seasons of life and life’s changing circumstances.
You walked with youthful steps,
resounding to a hopeful future,
supporting me as I learn to walk,
looking up I see a giant of the land.
You struggle uphill in halting steps,
against prejudice and bigotry,
discouraged but never beaten,
bettering yourself inch by inch.
You took a tumble in your steps,
when you reached too far,
fell, broken but not cowed,
to start afresh once again.
You took exile in your steps,
to walk in strange countries,
for work not available at home,
to feed and clothe your family.
You walk slowly in halting steps,
time and age finally took its toll,
reached the undiscovered country,
standing tall on a chariot of fire.
watching again The Two Towers
Frodo Baggins: I can’t do this, Sam.
Samwise Gamgee: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we should not even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you did not want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they did not. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo Baggins: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Samwise Gamgee: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo … and it’s worth fighting for.”
Grandchildren by Frederick Buechner
To have grandchildren is not only to be given something but to be given something back.
You are given back something of your children’s childhood all those years ago. You are given back something of what it was like to be a young parent. You are given back something of your own childhood even, as on creaking knees you get down on the floor to play tiddlywinks, or sing about Old MacDonald and his farm, or watch Saturday morning cartoons till you’re cross-eyed.
It is not only your own genes that are part of your grandchildren but the genes of all sorts of people they never knew but who, through them, will play some part in times and places they never dreamed of. And of course along with your genes, they will also carry their memories of you into those times and places too—the afternoon you lay in the hammock with them watching the breezes blow, the face you made when one of them stuck out a tongue dyed Popsicle blue at you, the time you got a splinter out for one of them with the tweezers of your Swiss army knife. On some distant day they will hold grandchildren of their own with the same hands you once held them by as you searched the beach at low tide for Spanish gold.
In the meantime, they are the freshest and fairest you have. After you’re gone, it is mainly because of them that the earth will not be as if you never walked on it.
~originally published in Beyond Words