Would you like to bring “water” into this current, socially distanced desert we live in? Well, let me tell you about this picture.
Some years ago I traveled to China with a medical team from Virginia. We had been invited by the Amity Foundation, the social development arm of the China Christian Council, to tour a number of clinics and small hospitals in Gansu Province, at that time a rather poor and underdeveloped region in western China just south of the Gobi Desert. The Amity Foundation invited us so that our physicians and therapists could dialogue with the Chinese medical professionals and explore avenues of partnership and mutual learning.
I remember carrying some anxiety with me as we journeyed to China, anxiety fueled by a life-time of hearing stories about the “godless Communists.” I was also amazed that there was a flourishing Christian organization living openly and with the full sanction of a Chinese Communist government which was actually grateful for the social development initiatives led by the Chinese Christians in places like Gansu. Any anxiety I had, however, quickly dissipated upon our arrival in Shanghai as our hosts greeted us with huge welcome signs, wide smiles, and intricately organized hospitality which saw our every need met.
Shanghai sported multiple amenities to which our hosts treated us. They warned us, though, that when we flew west to the city of Lanzhou, things would feel a bit more primitive. Indeed, the accommodations were a bit more spartan, the roads less well maintained, we saw far fewer western-styled restaurants and kiosks, and a dun colored landscape reflected the reality that this is one of the driest geographical regions on the planet.
They showered us, however, with hospitality. They embraced us with service. In fact, my primary memory from those two weeks isn’t the treeless landscape, rather the eagerness with which people did simple things for us – like the man in this picture cheerfully cooking our lunch one day. I thanked him for his efforts and he responded that he knew being in Gansu would feel strange for us Americans and he thought that a real good, hot meal would help us feel better. It was, indeed, an excellent stew!
The pandemic has served up a rather dry landscape for us right now in which many of us thirst for human contact. This new socially distanced environment feels as strange as a treeless desert. We can still practice hospitality, though, and can still convey an embracing feeling to otherwise isolated and lonely people when we harness our tools together with others and like that cook in Gansu, we can help people feel a lot better simply by showing an eagerness to do the simple things.
On November 20, at 10:00am, we’ll host a Zoom meeting to talk about how the Support Team method we’ve practiced here at UAB for over twenty years can still facilitate connections and hospitality even in the midsts of this current social desert. We’ll post the link to the meeting next week. Join us!