About eight years ago, my wife Shannon and I were invited up to San Luis Obispo for the weekend. My friend Seth has an Uncle who would host a hootenanny every month, and we were on our way. The hootenanny was like nothing this suburb-born boy had ever experienced before. People of all ages played music together. No one cared if you were an expert musician or not, anyone could come and join in. In a world filled with clubs and bouncers, what I experienced this night was so very different. Instead of well-defined fences, there were overflowing wells of hospitality that were open and available to all.
And like the music, there was more than enough food to go around. There was so much food that it seemed to be provided continuously, like manna raining from heaven. There was so much good beer, good music, good food and so many good people that it was a bit staggering to the senses. People dared not look at their watches for fear that such an act would only hasten the inevitable curfew.
When closing time eventually came around, we cruised over to Uncle Jonas’ house. We parked outside, walked up the front path and crossed the threshold. The house was tiny; it consisted of a small living room, modest kitchen, a downstairs bedroom and one more bedroom upstairs. Though the hootenanny was over, the music-making was far from being finished. We played music late into the night and we laughed until our bellies hurt. The joy in the house was irresistible and all present kept playing, hoping that the night’s revelries would go on ad infinitum. When we inevitably began to nod off, Jonas and Cammie’s daughter,Caleb, offered to let Shannon and I sleep in her bed. Everyone else laid out sleeping bags and camped out upstairs. We drifted off to sleep, filled with a sincere thankfulness that was eventually enveloped by a satisfied exhaustion.
In the early morning, I heard Jonas and Cammie milling around in the kitchen outside our door. They were both trying so hard to be quiet, to not wake us from our sleep, but I heard it all. I heard them whisper to one another about this and that. I heard them grab the morning paper and cups of coffee as they walked outside. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I looked out the window and saw where Jonas and Cammie had gone. They were reading their paper and drinking coffee in the front seat of their mini-van! I had never experienced such hospitality, such consideration from people we had met just the previous day. Jonas and Cammie quite literally vacated their own home in an effort keep their guests from being awoken prematurely. When everyone eventually woke up, we ate some breakfast and played some more music. The music just rolled on and on into the early afternoon. It was as if music was as imperative in their home as eating or breathing.
When we were all played out, some of us went for a little run. I didn’t have any running shorts, so uncle Jonas gave me a pair of his. And after the run, we all came back and jumped into their hot-tub, the one sitting in the middle of their front lawn. I was nearly thirty, and I’d experienced my fair share of joy, but this short weekend was unique. In all my life, I had never experienced such selflessly genuine hospitality. I had always believed that you had to have an extra room to be hospitable. I think I had unintentionally believed that a lot of money was necessary to bless others, in any substantial way. Our weekend at Jonas’ smashed this falsehood to bits. I hope that I will be able to share what I have with others as freely as Jonas, Cammie and Caleb shared with us. I hope that our little hobbit hole in suburbia will be a golden memory for some that experience joy and true hospitality within its walls. Here’s to the hope that the fire of true fellowship will burn brighter, especially when the air outside gets colder and the days get shorter. May Uncle Jonas, Cammie and Caleb live long and well, so that many more may be blessed by their open hearts and open doors.