Promote healing by practicing hospitality

Column by T.J. Kimble

Hurt is universal. Humanity has been born for troubles as sure as sparks fly upward. There is plenty of pain for everyone on the planet.

Whether a sickness takes a child away, a tragedy ends a marriage, a surprise diagnosis forever changes a family, natural or manmade disasters turn whole communities into chaotic hubs of controlled mayhem.

The point is families get shattered in the process of all these upward flying sparks.

Who’s left to clean up the aftermath and help people heal and return to some sort of normal? After the dust of destruction settles, how are people supposed to start healing?

The answer has to come in how we treat others, no matter how different from us they might be.

But that’s where the rub comes in. Humans are homogenous by nature and that’s more than half the problem. We naturally surround ourselves with others who are just like us. And whether we’re aware of it or not, we alienate those who aren’t like us.

Let’s be honest, we all do it to some degree and it disqualifies us from being part of the healing process.

Sundays in the U.S. for example, is the most segregated day of the week. And it’s not just racially. It’s also the most doctrinally divided day of the week. People congregate around their beliefs and how they believe; more than who they believe and how that transforms the way they treat others when the sparks are flying in all their faces.

Why is it important and how can anyone attempt such a tall order as helping hurting humanity heal? It really matters because healing is just as universal as hurt.

We don’t always understand how healing works and we’re confused about the people and places it comes from. Healing can come through the most peculiar people, places and simply brilliant acts of life-saving hospitality.

Hospitality is the generous and friendly treatment of visitors. When you drill down deeper into the meaning of the actual word, you find “hospital” at the root.

Real hospitals are the order of the day in this world of universal hurt. And hospitals don’t have the power to heal people nearly as much as hurting people have the power to heal others who are hurting. That kind of hospital can take place anywhere imaginable.

Contemplating this concept reminds me of a movie, “The Pianist.”

A Polish pianist trapped in a World War II war zone faces many grueling life-depriving situations: separated from his family, forced into slave labor, participates in a failed prison camp takeover and faces sickness and starvation.

Near the end of the war, he’s hiding in a bombed-out house and is discovered by a German officer. The officer learns the Polish Szpilman is a pianist and asks him to play on a grand piano in the house. The war-weary pianist manages to play Chopin’s “Ballade in G minor.” From this point on, the German officer allows him to hide in the house, often bringing him food and provisions keeping him from starving to death. He provides healing through hospitality right in the middle of all those troublesome sparks.

Talk about a counter-cultural experience transcending the humanity of two entirely different people. Enemies become friends in a moment when the tapestry of the times is filled with hate. The German officer obviously was overcome by the pianist’s musical ability, but more so by the depth of his humanity and by his overwhelming needs.

Although some people talk about having the courage to take the high road, this German officer goes against everything he believes and how he’s taught to practice it.

No doubt, without the Ger­man officer’s acts of hospitality toward Szpilman, the pianist would have never lived to 88 and to see the year 2000.

So what’s the answer to a traumatizing world regularly and indiscriminately bombarding the human family with shockwaves of hurt? It may be found, in part, in a German school teacher named Capt. Wilhelm Adalbert Hosenfeld.

He crossed all cultural and doctrinal divides to help hide and rescue several Polish people, to include Jews, and also closely assisted Polish Jewish pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman to survive, hidden in a bombed-out house in Warsaw during the last months of the war.

In June 2009, Hosenfeld officially was recognized by Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. It was all because he exercised the courage to cross the human divides showing hospitality to the wounded and hurting.

It proves when the sparks are flying upward, the best hospitals are hospitable people willing to share in the depths of others hurts — no matter what day of the week it is.

Dr. T.J. Kimble of Radcliff is a clinical pastoral counselor. He can be reached at 

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