Monday, February 29, 2016

Southern Hospitality

That boy is your company. And if he wants to eat up that tablecloth, you let him, you hear?” - Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I once mortified my mother by asking our brand new minister if he wanted to play cards when he joined us for Sunday dinner. Unbeknownst to me - playing cards was frowned on by some church denominations. I had been learning how to play crazy eights and thought it was a great way to spend 15 minutes. I thought I was being hospitable. Dad quickly asked him if he’d like some iced tea (sweet of course) and we moved on to mom’s fried chicken in record time. is a learned skill and the rules of host and guest differ greatly by region. In Japan you eat all the rice in your bowl and you don’t empty your glass. You decline an offer three times before you can accept. In England the host automatically offers (hot) tea which is understood to include some sort of sweet – even though the sweet is never mentioned. Here in the south you offer iced tea, water, coffee… pretty much any and ALL the liquids available in your home to your guests.

Since 1998 Cabarrus County hosts students who come here with the Collegiate Challenge program. Collegiate Challenge is a Habitat for Humanity program for students who choose to spend their spring break week building a Habitat home. These young adults bear the costs of travel, lodging, and meals to give of their time and talents to help an unknown family get one week closer to home ownership. Four groups of students will participate in Collegiate Challenge this year: Waynesburg University-PA, Stockton University-NJ, Northwestern University-IL, and Gates County High School-NC. County is a good host and we put our own spin on Collegiate Challenge. We collaborate as a community to provide southern hospitality to our guests from afar. Guests are honored beings who get to use the special soaps and towels or in OUR case – get to sleep in area churches.

Forest Hills UMC, St. James Lutheran, First Presbyterian Concord, and Connect Christian Churches host a team for a week and provide these young volunteers with free spaces to sleep. Additional support comes from churches like McGill Baptist, Mr. Herman Lutheran, and Central UMC and area businesses like Chick-fil-A to provide meals for the hard-working students. Cannon Memorial YMCA graciously opens their locker rooms each afternoon to provide shower facilities. In addition, one of our weekday warriors takes each team out for a night of roller skating and fellowship. is Waynesburg University’s sixth year volunteering with Habitat Cabarrus. Waynesburg keeps coming back to us because of our hospitality – they feel “at home” here. Cabarrus County welcomes them with opens doors, kitchens, and hearts. The students feel the love and genuine appreciation we have for them and their efforts - so they return to our community year after year. (The First Presbyterian Concord brownies help too.)

The art of hospitality is so important that it’s mentioned in the bible in several places. Romans 12:13 reminds the early churches about, “Contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.Job 31:32 reads, "The alien has not lodged outside, for I have opened my doors to the traveler.

Thank you Cabarrus County for opening doors to the traveler and for practicing hospitality so well! 
If you are interested in providing meals or snacks to our Collegiate Challenge teams please contact Dyana Bostian.

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