Open Your Home, Open Your Life

1_4_Hospitality

Guest Post: Kim Jakus

I moved to the Twin Cities twelve years ago this month to commit to a year of service with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC). This organization partners young adults (most fresh out of college) with non-profit organizations around the country. Volunteers also commit to living in community with fellow volunteers with a focus on principles of simple living, social justice and spirituality. At the ripe and energetic age of 22, I moved to St. Paul hoping to make the world a better place through the affordable housing organization I was partnered with. Having been exposed to (and depressed by) so much injustice through my study abroad program in Kenya, I was initially drawn to LVC because of the focus on social justice. And living simply? Sure, I could live on a stipend, eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and lentil loaf for dinner while fighting the monster of consumerism. Spirituality? Hallelujah! No problem; I got this. Now community-living? By that do you mean, I am going to live in a house with four strangers in a city I’ve never been to where I literally don’t know anybody else? Well, okay, I guess I could give it a try. I mean, only if I have to. You know, so I can make the world a better place.

Well, surprise surprise!  Would you believe that I have now spent the last twelve years living in some form of community living? It turns out that I can actually live out my values of social justice, spirituality and simple living much more easily when I am surrounded by like-minded folks. And, to me, hospitality is at the heart of what it means to live in community.

Hospitality can be big and external. It can look like saying hello to folks that pass through the alley, hosting a neighborhood BBQ every week in the summer or throwing house parties that raise money for various causes and organizations. As important as it is to show hospitality to the stranger and those outside our doors, I have found it essential to show hospitality to those we are closest to. This can be as simple as leaving dinner on the stove for those who come home late or taking the dog for a walk around the block. And, it can be as challenging as giving space for others to truly be themselves, putting love for the other above ideals and expectations of what community should look like.

When I decided to travel for two months and meet Andrew and Becca in Nepal, I figured I would just find a hostel in Kathmandu and meet up with them each day. In retrospect, that would have been a logistical nightmare. Negotiating narrow streets filled with cars, motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, pedestrians, cows and stray dogs while not speaking the language  – let’s just say this is not in my skill set. Fortunately, Andrew worked his magic and said I could stay with him and Becca at the Girls Home and Widows Home he had worked with when he lived there five years ago. Girls Home. Widows Home. Institutional isn’t quite the right word, but what I expected was definitely something organizational. What I found were just simple families that had opened up their homes and lives to others.

Karuna Ghar

At Karuna Ghar, Nepali for Home of Compassion, Gautam and Rekah treat each of the 15 kids (mostly girls) living there as their own children. It took me a week before I could tell which kids were theirs biologically and which they had taken in. And at Prem Ghar, Home of Love, Jyoti and Shiva live with their four children, Jyoti’s mother and four sweet, wrinkled Ammas, Nepali for mother. I cried the first day we visited and Jyoti told us about how her mother lived with leprosy and was kicked out of her home by her husband’s family; that this experience led Jyoti to take in other ammas who had been deserted with no family to care for them. And don’t even get me started on Brother Rakesh and the Poor Servants of Jesus the Master. Living on the edge of Kathmandu near farm fields, these religious brothers open their home to five young men and help with education costs while providing a stable home situation.

It’s hard to put into words the hospitality I experienced by these families and so many others I met in Nepal. There is so much laughter, generosity, creativity and true welcome in each of these homes. These are the kind of people that give you a hug when they first meet you. They love you right away. For no reason at all, they just love you. None of them had plans to start a home to “save” kids and old women. Each simply responded to a call and opened their hearts, not knowing what to expect or how it would evolve.

PSJM1

During my time in Nepal, I felt very instinctively that I needed to begin to pray and rethink hospitality in my own context. How could my notion of family be expanded? Was my heart open enough to let in new possibilities, but also the chaos that comes with the unknown? I would quickly find out. Within a period of three months, the community I live with diminished from six to only two people. This could be the perfect situation to re-imagine hospitality, if only I weren’t unemployed and overwhelmed by house repairs and mourning the loss of the people with whom I had hoped to re-imagine hospitality with.

PSJM2

Well, surprise surprise!  Would you believe it if I told you that in the midst of this unexpected transition I received a random email forwarded from a friend, forwarded from his colleague, forwarded from the Lutheran Volunteer Corps? They were looking for a two bedroom unit in North Minneapolis for two young women beginning their year of service in August. This was not what I expected when I imagined a new vision of hospitality, but it seemed too perfect a full-circle moment to pass up. So now there are two ripe and energetic, fresh-out-of-college women living upstairs. I hope to show them hospitality as they adjust to living in a new city. And they have already begun to show me hospitality by giving me a new view of the neighborhood through fresh eyes. So, here I am – trying to open my heart, not knowing what to expect or how this will evolve. But, I have a gut feeling that it’s going to be good. Really good.


Kim Jakus Bio

 

Kim Jakus is a gardener, grocer, community organizer, homeowner and friendly neighbor in North Minneapolis. You cannot find her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or see her photos on Instagram; her blogging is limited to a private journal and guest posts for Adding to the Beauty, but if you meet her in real life she’ll likely show you some serious hospitality. Also, she climbed a mountain. And she’s pretty proud of it.


We are increasingly convinced that resisting violence in this world requires a lifestyle of radical hospitality. Our small acts of kindness beyond the borders of family, tribe, nation, religion, ethnicity, race, sexuality, gender, denomination, political affiliation, economic class are not only preparation for resisting more violent situations, but are also themselves the embodiment of love that create a more peaceful world. This September we are sharing a few of our own reflections, and those of our friends, on hospitality.

 

So Full it Hurts

“Nobody is going to understand this when we get home,” I whispered.

 

Adding to the Beauty

...and yet, to be honest, sometimes we just. don't. see it. We look around and see: War. Slavery. Displacement. Hunger. Thirst. Environmental Destruction. Anything-but-glory. B[...]

 

Day in the Life || We Don't Do Great Things

Poor Servants of Jesus the Master [Nepal] We sit around a long rectangular wooden table where hospitality and friendship are served in equal measure. A nineteen year old boy, from[...]