“People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
I have sometimes used the above insightful quote by Maya Angelou, when I have been talking to student teachers. Research has shown that the majority of students choose their ‘A’ level options, based on the quality of relationships that they experienced with their teachers — not the subjects per se. The reason for such behaviour is that we humans are intrinsically social beings who thrive in good relationships. Many of us spend a lifetime in search of the happiness that is experienced when feeling at ease and happy with others.
I too have experienced such happiness this week, as I have reflected on how over the years I have experienced the value of hospitality. Hospitality is the quality or disposition of treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly and generous way.
During my career I have been so fortunate to be invited to speak in many countries about the importance of living our lives based on positive values. Without exception I have been afforded great hospitality, often from people who have scant material resources. In many cultures the stranger is naturally treated with great respect and hospitality; visitors being made to feel that they are doing a great favour to their host by being there.
Closer to home, and during the last few days, I have observed the benefits of receiving and giving hospitality. My first example is of someone who lives in our village, who has spent the last few months inviting local villagers, on dry days, to have a meal with her on her patio. I believe that to-date nearly half of the villagers have been afforded her kind and generous hospitality.
My second example is of the reception Jane and I have received from the hosts of an Airbnb at Bradwell, a quiet estuary village in Essex, UK. On arrival we were made to feel so welcome; we appreciated all the extra goodies and kindnesses that were shared with us. We gained the impression that moneymaking was not a priority, but ensuring that guests feel completely at home. I am writing this article whilst sitting in their beautiful, peaceful garden, listening to the sound of a gentle waterfall cascading into a pond — yes, with water lilies too!
These experiences have enhanced the quality of my life and reminded me of the importance of genuine hospitality. It nourishes those aspects of us that long for relationships, harmony and acceptance. It contributes to the building of a harmonious world that welcomes the stranger as a friend, rather than someone to be feared.