Welcoming the Stranger

By Jane Larkin: GFC camper parent who hosted two members of the GFC Mishlachat (Israeli Delegation) at her home in Dallas

A month ago, I received an email asking GFC families in Dallas to help house some of the Israeli counselors for two days before they came to camp. I loved the idea of opening our home to GFC staff, but had in the course of a minute found plenty of reasons why it just wasn’t feasible – it was my son’s last week of school, I had errands to run and work projects to complete, I’d have to juggle and reschedule appointments and activities. It just wasn’t convenient. I thought, maybe another time.

We regularly open our home to people who need a place to go for holidays. I can always squeeze in another place at our table. So why did housing people for 48 hours feel like such a big commitment? I rethought my answer to the request. It was only two days and I knew welcoming the counselors into our home would mean a lot to our son Sammy who, after one summer, had fallen deeply in love with camp.

Sammy calls GFC “sacred ground.” I knew he would be excited to have a part of camp in his house for two days. It would be a memorable experience. The next morning I floated the idea by Sammy. His eyes grew wide with excitement and he said, “Please tell them we’ll do it!”

As the week of the staff’s arrival approached we received an email with the names of our guests – Tal and Gilad. We corresponded with them and we all got excited about their arrival. My husband and I got the house ready, and Sammy made a sign in Hebrew welcoming Gilad and Tal.

What transpired over the next two days reminded me not of the obligation to welcome the stranger, but of the joy in welcoming the stranger. Tal commandeered the kitchen as I prepared lunch on the first day and proceeded to make delicious salads. As we cooked and ate we talked family, food and Israeli politics. I found myself taking time to actually enjoy my midday meal rather than eating as quickly as possible while standing at my kitchen counter.

My husband lingered over breakfast talking instead of rushing to the office. We took walks with our puppy and Sammy had two “older brothers” who were happy to talk Legos, play baseball in the park and volleyball in the pool. For Sammy it was a slice of heaven.

Over the course of the two days that we welcomed Tal and Gilad we were able to bring a little bit of the magic of camp into our home. We didn’t accomplish many items on our to do lists, but we did something far more important – we took time to connect with others, not via Facebook or Twitter, but through real conversation. It’s part of what camp is all about – disconnecting from the craziness of our school-year lives and building new friendships.

 

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