Reflection on Hospitality

By Gunilla Norris

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As excerpted from Great Love in Little Ways – Reflections on the Power of Kindness by Gunilla Norris

Every moment is a time for hospitality. Now is always the welcome mat at the threshold of inclusion. How do we live a life of welcome? The truth is that we do not welcome everything. We shut the door on pain, fear, disgust, strangeness, and every manner of thing we don’t know.

It is easy to feel kindness toward that which appeals. Kindness to that which is abhorrent is hard to learn. We need to surrender to the fact that we will never be able to really welcome what frightens us. It requires us to surrender and be vulnerable to the quick.

If anything, God is inclusive beyond imagining. The enormity and diversity of God’s creation is proof of that. It will never come to an end. It is ongoing, happening every second – a resounding YES to all than can be, good or bad (from our point of view). Who then are we to shut the door?

Can we ask for the courage to open our doors a crack? Can we note when we are about to slam the door and lock it tight? Even a moment of hesitation will offer asylum to our reactivity. Imagine being able, on the spot, to confess, I am scared. I am unwilling. Can we be hospitable to our frightened, homeless selves?

That doesn’t mean we have opened the door. It doesn’t mean we have slammed the door either. We are just sitting there on the muddy welcome mat, giving our frightened selves a little kindness. We are being caring long enough for reactivity to subside a little … perhaps a minute, perhaps years.  The welcome mat invites us to enroll in the school of imperfection. There we are both teachers and students. We are learning to be human, and that is what God wants of us. Accepting our humanity is the kindness that will welcome even the difficult.


Great Love in Little Ways – Reflections on the Power of Kindness is Gunilla Norris’ newest book (TWENTY-THIRD PUBLICATIONS, 2019) on the spirituality of the everyday. It is available in the Mercy by the Sea bookstore. On January 18, 2020, Gunilla and Frank Pendola, Music Minister at St. Vincent de Paul and Our Lady of Victory parishes in Rhode Island, will co-facilitate the new Mercy by the Sea day program, “A Cup in Hand – A Day of Contemplative Reflection,” with guided exercises, discussion, journaling, chant and periods of Centering Prayer.