Hospitality: More Than Food

2021 n04

In Clair’s first tutoring relationship, she helped a middle school boy learn to use his new hearing aids, which helped him excel in school (see Replacing Ronaldo’s Hope, 2018 n03). As much as Clair liked the family—and they liked her—eventually, they didn’t need a tutor anymore. Clair stays in touch, but since then, she has worked with two other new-to-Knoxville families.

In the first, an elementary-age girl needed help with math. Clair has coached her up so that she rarely needs tutoring now. Instead, Clair visits them as friends, including an iftar meal this past month to break their Ramadan fast. (Yum!)

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Clair began working with a third family back in February. They have three boys, and Clair tutors the two elementary-aged boys in whatever subject they need that day. She also helps the parents improve their English skills and works on vocabulary with the preschooler. It’s only been three months, but Clair says, “We bonded very quickly and now consider each other as family.”

In every home, Clair enjoys watching smiles spread across the kids’ faces as they come to understand their schoolwork, and she celebrates their victories alongside them “when they overcome a barrier or finish an assignment they thought was too difficult.” And in every home, she finds herself learning as much as she teaches. Sometimes the kids teach her words from their heart language (then laugh when she mispronounces them). Sometimes, the family teaches her about their culture or customs.

Even when they speak very little English, the parents always model generosity and hospitality. Clair has learned that “love and kindness are universal languages.” Plus, she says, “Their hospitality is unmatched. The women are fabulous cooks and I have experienced food that I never would have. Some of it is now my favorite food.” Clair has tasted true, generous hospitality!

She has also “dished it out,” because hospitality isn’t only about serving food to others. When Clair befriends a family, when she helps their kids improve at school, when she enjoys a new food, she helps the new family feel like they belong in Knoxville…like they are welcome here.

Welcome. Isn’t that the foundation of hospitality?


Would you like to extend some East Tennessee hospitality to the Nations Next Door, either in your home or in theirs? Or maybe at the park, in a quiet room at your church, or sitting in a coffee shop? KIN exists to help you make others feel welcome in metro Knoxville. Contact us today to find out how to get started!

#NationalVolunteerMonth #KINvols

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