Back in 1995 I wrote a book titled, "Beyond Difference." It was an examination of the notion of inclusion, and in it I explored the key elements necessary in a community to promote acceptance and involvement of people new to community.
When I began the research for this book, I thought that it would be an esoteric examination, and I would find deep and complex issues associated with inclusion. Instead, after both academic and anecdotal exploration I found 5 simple variables. These included "kindness," "generosity," "hospitality," "compassion," and "forgiveness." In the book I closely analyze each of these 5 variables.
If you think about it, all 5 of these variables are critical to including people who may have been devalued or left behind. The book looks at these issues, but one variable, that of "hospitality," continues to challenge my thinking. We know that hospitality is about welcoming people. Some definitions of hospitality talks about welcoming the stranger. Yet, in our culture, the idea of welcoming strangers seems to provoke fear. In this day and age of terrorism, and predators, it seems the culture has shifted to fearing the stranger, even to avoiding them.
In a way, today, people who are unknown because they have not been in the mix, are perceived as strangers. In a society that baits fear, these very people, though not dangerous or threatening, will remain unknown and the goal of inclusion will remain illusive.
So, how hospitable are you when encountering strangers?