As I near the end of my backpacking trip across the Highlands of Scotland, I find that I can’t stop thinking about hospitality. Which is rather odd, given that my feet, having carried my weight plus an extra 35 pounds on my back over 200 miles of bogs, hills, endless stream crossings (some of which were rather harrowing) have not exactly been appendages of hospitality. They have rebelled with blisters and aching soles, creating a symphony of discomfort with my shoulders and knees.
But as the miles wore on, I discovered that there were ways of managing the aches and the internal whining that went along with it. Resting periodically; taking my boots off. Applying foot powder. And — this was perhaps the most important and the hardest to come by — that I was not in charge. That I did not have dominion over the terrain. When I slowly came to that realization, the landscape became even more beautiful. And I could see — and feel, that God’s creation was continually offering its hospitality. “Come on in”, it beckoned. Water and food and sunlight will all be provided. Yes, the rain may last longer than desired, and the morning chill may continue through the day — but the resources for life are bountiful, if not bottomless.
Most of the crossing was through some of the most remote swaths of land I have ever experienced. The only people we would meet were fellow “Crossers”. And the conversations we had could be very brief or more involved. Virtually all were filled with hospitality — encouragement for the journey, suggestions as to which route may be loss boggy, which river crossings were possible and which ones weren’t. Sharing cups of tea, As my hiking companion, Dave Brown, and I entered our second week of the journey, we were serendipitously joined by Ole Hollesen, a Danish hiker whom we had met at the hotel the night before we set out. We walked the rest of the way together — relishing each other’s company, and sharing our stories at the end of the day over single malt Scotch. Creating a community of hospitality.
Hospitality is a gift. It opens up the soul. It massages the heart. Hospitality is easy to squander, and perhaps easier to ignore. I learned anew through this remarkable Scotland sojourn that hospitality is foundational to the ongoing dynamic of Creation. It won’t quite. We may quit on it, or think we can overrule it. Or that we don’t need it.
But we do. Creation provides endless hospitality. We need to return the favor —