The Power of Showing Up
Updated: Oct 30, 2018
We tend to think about hospitality in environments where we are trying to create an experience for our guests that is memorable, happy, entertaining, or exquisite. How can the service we provide leave that guest feeling great about their encounter with us?
But what if the best hospitality we can provide allows the guest to just feel whatever emotion their current circumstances are creating? At Hospitality House of Tulsa, we provide lodging, meals, prayer support, and many other services for over 1,000 families each year that have to travel to Tulsa in medical crisis. What makes Hospitality House so special is the WAY we deliver biblical hospitality, which is defined as showing brotherly love towards a stranger.
Being a practitioner of hospitality, I quickly had to learn that my job, my calling, to help these families was NOT to make them happy. That would be an impossible expectation. It was instead, to be present and to be supportive during the crisis, while allowing them to feel exactly what they naturally feel in times of pain, confusion, anger, and fear.
So, how do you help or interact with someone who is going through the most terrible crisis of their lives? Well, most people actually avoid people in emotional crisis. In fact, cancer patients and AIDS patients will often say how their large circle of friends got very small after they told others about their diagnosis. It wasn’t that their friends stopped caring; it was because their friends did not know what to say or do for them and it felt uncomfortable, so they just quit showing up.
I compare this situation to how we have to train fire fighters to rush into a burning building, while everyone else is running away from the building screaming. It’s natural for us to want to avoid pain, even pain that others are experiencing. The truth is we often don’t know what to say. What if I told you that helping someone may not have anything to do with what you say, but what you don’t say? In his book, The Power of Presence: Helping People Help People, author Doug Manning writes:
“Listening without giving advice or even making a comment sounds rather inadequate. When I tell grieving people that they need to find some safe people and ‘talk grief to death’, some express doubt that just talking will help them in their struggle. All of us experienced the power of the ear, but, somehow, when the chips are down for someone else, we tend to think talking works better than listening.” (p.16)
Even when it feels uncomfortable or silly, simply sitting with someone in pain provides the best opportunity for them to process through their emotions. Allowing them to speak out loud their pain, emotions, fears, and anxieties helps them to really work through their situation. When we try to impose our own past experiences, points of view, and suggestions, their minds can become muddled. But just listening seems almost too simplistic, right? In the next blog we will dissect a bit more into why listening skills are so helpful in times of crisis.
Hospitality In Action Tip
Be ready to listen to a person’s struggle without adding your own thoughts, insights or advice.