Before I boarded the plane for an almost-never-ending flight to Japan, my older sister gave me one piece of advice: Eat everything.

I may weigh 10 pounds heavier when it is time to board the return flight home.

Eating all this delicious and completely-new-to-me food, I have been struck by a couple of things…

First, I have been humbled by the generosity, grace, and, for lack of a better word, openness of the Japanese people. They have invited us into their homes and feasted us like royalty. They have spread bedding for us on their floors. They have introduced us to parents and grandparents.

Afternoon meal at Kaori’s mother’s house.

My daughter commented that true hospitality requires courage. True hospitality demands that we be vulnerable: We must be willing to be exposed as perhaps less grand than we want others to think we are.

True hospitality is not attempting to recreate another person’s “normal” so that they feel at home; rather, true hospitality means inviting others into our own day-to-day world, to commune with us not as visitors, but as family.

But what if my guest thinks my accommodations are inadequate? What if the food I serve disgusts them? What if my guest leaves tired and hungry, instead of refreshed? The invitation – “Please, enter into my world!” – is indeed a scary invitation to extend to one we have only just met!

Second: fellowship around the table is, I think, one of the most beautiful, unifying experiences we enjoy as humans. Shared food, shared drink, shared stories, shared laughter – even with strangers (or perhaps most particularly with strangers) – has the effect of softening lines of race, culture, language, political ideology, economics, age, etc.

It is an opportunity to pause and consider at a most elementary level exactly what it means to be human, to remember how much we have in common with other humans who at first glance seem very different from ourselves.

The end of a hearty breakfast with friends.

Alix, thank you for the excellent advice. I am a richer person for having followed it.

(I am thankful Jesus invites us to join him at his table, and I look forward with great anticipation to the great marriage feast to come!)

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