Learning from Children: Generous Hospitality

Yet again, I have been learning more from the children I work with than they have from me. This is not unusual, it happens most days, but I thought I’d share this one.

This morning the pre-school next door to church had an unexpected fire alarm and, as is the agreed procedure, evacuated the children into the church. Just as we were starting Small Saints, our group for pre-school children and their families. So suddenly instead of 12 children, we had 42!

In the midst of the ensuing chaos, I observed the following. M, aged 3, had been playing with the playdough for some time, carefully cutting out cat shapes and lining them up along the edge of the table. Suddenly she looked up and saw a large and unexpected group of unfamiliar children arriving. She immediately picked up the cats she’d made, squished them and all the playdough into a ball, and split it into many small amounts, which she gave to other children as they arrived at the table.

A small act of kindness perhaps, but pretty impressive for such a young child to do unprompted. I was proud of her.

And I think M taught me something today about what really generous hospitality looks like. It means putting aside the things we want, the things we’ve planned and worked for. It means sharing what we have and letting others share in the creative process. It means taking the unexpected in our stride and not being afraid to relinquish control. It means letting go of our own ideas so that other people’s can find a place to flourish.

The sort of generous hospitality God calls us to is not about shifting our boundaries slightly so that others can fit in with what we’re doing. It’s about looking at who is in front of us, and doing things in a way that includes everyone, even if that means abandoning our own dearly-held plans.

Sometimes it takes a fire-alarm and a 3 year old with some playdough to bring me back to where God wants my attention. Thank you God for using your children to teach me (yet again).

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