I'm not a huge fan of tolerance as a mantra of existence. I’m not suggesting intolerance…please don’t get me wrong. But tolerance—live and let live, I’m OK, you’re OK, do-whatever-you-want-as-long-as-it-doesn’t-get-in-my-way—suggests an embrace of individualism that stands in direct contrast to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or “Love your neighbor as God has loved you,” or, “Love your enemies.”
Last Saturday, we worked at the soon-to-be-occupied Lawrence Road Hospitality House. Young and old, black and white, women and men, able-bodied (most everybody else) and infirm (that would be me after two weeks of intensive home renovations), we grabbed paintbrushes, and rollers, and pry bars…and we worked.
And while we worked, we talked. But more importantly, we listened. I listened as two teenagers shared their lives with a woman who after 30 years of teaching had probably already heard it all. You’d never have known that, though, by the quality of her listening. I listened while three teenagers raucously engaged the painting job at hand and squealed with delight at the chance to be together after a long summer of absence. All of us listened—in truth, there was no other choice.
Two families discovered that they had been neighbors for years. Several who were sharing a common paint bucket were astounded by how long it had been since they checked in with one another. And of course, the conversation included a certain amount of whining about aching joints and tired limbs (that might have been me) and the folks listened to that, too.
Now that might sound like the classic definition of tolerance—but I didn’t feel tolerated. I felt loved and engaged and embraced and needed and enjoyed and…did I mention loved? Because people listened to me, and listened to each other, seeking to understand more than to be understood, to love more than to be loved.
My prayer is that Hospitality House will be more than just a place to hang one’s hat. My prayer is that this will be a home for young adults who have chosen to forebear tolerance in favor of engagement, to put aside the cultural imperative to individualism and embrace a unity that we believe is found in Christ Jesus. My prayer is that this House will be a place of talking, of laughter and of tears, and a place of deep listening, too. Last Saturday was a very good start.