Interruptibility, cont’d

Just before Christmas, I explored the idea of interruptibility and cultivating it as a discipline. I made the case that being available for the unexpected can expand our sense of hospitality, much like traveling can expand our sense of culture and the way we see the world. I have since allowed the idea of interruptibility to percolate, and recent events have helped to give it fuller flavor. While I stand by the qualities I originally spelled out for interruptibility, it is time to give it a larger context. I am starting to think that interruptibility is not so much a virtue in itself, but just one way that we can express hospitality. Allow me to set the stage… Stevenson Garden

On Saturday, our friend Bo had organized a workday in the Stevenson garden, which sits next door to our house. Our plan was to get plants in the ground, then share a meal around the picnic table in our backyard. But as we scrambled to plant the last seeds, we quickly ran out of daylight. It soon became apparent that we should move our dinner indoors. The scrambling continued as we added leaves to the table, got out extra chairs, and finally sat down to eat. And Arielle and I both enjoyed the fellowship.

Afterwards, the two of us had a moment to process the evening. I was a bit surprised to hear Arielle say that the change of plans was difficult for her. She had expected to have time by herself inside finishing a sewing project while our one-year-old slept. Instead, we gardeners came in and commandeered the dining table where she had been sewing. Sure, she had enjoyed the company, but in general, she prefers the kind of hosting where you know ahead of time you’re going to be hosting.

Though I knew she genuinely liked the fellowship, I could not understand why Arielle wasn't more excited about being interruptible. I knew that moving our meal inside conflicted with her expectations, but hadn't we talked at length before about the value of being flexible for others in the name of hospitality? Oh, how easy it is to see a quality that I come by naturally as a virtue…while I completely overlook the virtues of others! I have always known that my wife is a much better planner than I am. What I am learning today is that this also applies to the way she most naturally practices hospitality. I may be interruptible. But Arielle is intentional. Maybe these are two ways hospitality can be expressed. What it really comes down to is this: In what way do you make space for others?

For the mathematically inclined, let me put it this way: There are two different circumstances and qualities that both add up to making space for others.

Fuzzy math at its best

Or perhaps a nice chart. Let's explore the differences:

Interruptibility Intentionality
  - Spontaneous hospitality - Time devoted in the moment - More thinking on your feet - Requires flexibility - People feel cared for because you adjusted your schedule for them   - Planned hospitality - Time devoted on the front end - More forethought - Requires organization - People feel cared for because you considered them

So far, we are looking at two sides of hospitality. What do you think? Are there more sides to it? Other expressions? Maybe you hate hosting people in your home…that doesn’t mean you aren’t hospitable in another way. I want to know how you most naturally make space for others.