I am delighted to welcome my dear friend Shirlene Wood who lives in Panama and participated in the Just Add One challenge. Shirlene shares a little about her life in Panama and what hospitality means to her living off the grid where she travels to get her groceries by boat!!
"Three years ago our little family arrived in Bocas to live, in response to a very clear leading from God. What a change from our wonderful, full life in the beautiful Pacific NW! We'd never lived off grid, relied on rain water collection, or even driven a boat before. I'm so grateful for the people who graciously came alongside us and helped us adapt to our new, foreign surroundings!
Life is simpler and more complex now, challenging and full of unexpected joys and victories. A few years ago we would not have imagined where God would lead us, and what life would look like today, but I can honestly say that I wouldn't go back to the wonderful, full old life we had. Sometimes less is indeed more!!!
(This doesn't alter the fact that I still miss my family and friends and easy access to Bubble tea and good Thai food, or driving a car and Fall weather). Life is good and rich and I am thankful.
I am very excited about the Heartistry site and I wanted to participate in one of the Heartistry challenges. I wish I had more photos though, because the opportunity to "just add one" (or many more) appears quite often here in Panama!
I think it has a lot to do with the fact that when you live a bit more isolated and more remote, people are more eager to visit and stay a while.
- There isn't the same "rushed" frenzy here and errands and tasks consuming the day.
- A trip to "town" happens far less frequently and means that you get all of your errands done in a day, which leaves more downtime on the other days of the week. (They go by boat!)
- There are also no fast food joints, little bakeries or a plethora of restaurants to choose from to grab a bite to eat on your way home.
- If someone's visit lingers into meal time, they are more likely to accept an offer to stay for lunch or dinner, instead of rushing off.
- I imagine this must have been a bit more what it was like in the "old days" when going to visit someone was intentional and your closest neighbor wasn't a 2 minute car ride away.
- The people here don't have the same commitments to work, church, sport practices and games, or school events.
- People are a lot more available and have a lot less going on.
Back home in the States I would say we had a lot of interactions with people throughout the day as well, but it was more rare to have an individual accept an offer to stay for a meal, or even to be able to plan a day to have a meal together. Once you compare your schedules of when both parties are available, it usually is quickly limited to a date that's a week or two away. Here, it's very easy to call someone up at the last minute even to say, "hey, if you don't have plans, you should join us for dinner tonight!"
When it comes to our indigenous friends and neighbors here, the invitation to come over to eat, or an offered plate of food, has never once been turned down. To some degree, I think this has to do with the culture and the perception that you should accept what is given to you. And perhaps a poverty mentality comes into play too which triggers a "take whatever you can get" mindset. But they are accustomed to feeling hungry, and often skip a meal (or two), so when a plate of food or a snack is offered, it is always received. Something I have tried to be mindful of and teach our children is that as privileged North Americans, we don't have an understanding of what it is like to not eat for three days. We say we're "starving" when we've missed one meal! We can't always help them with what they need, and won't always give them what they are asking for, but I do feel compelled to offer a chair and something to eat or drink as often as we can.
This week on two different occasions, our Bella came running into the kitchen to ask me if she could offer a snack to some of the locals who had come by. I know that kids learn by the example we set, and I know that I was blessed to grow up in a home that often extended hospitality to others, but I'd love any kid-related tips you might have for developing that skill and gift in them!
This week we invited a friend whose wife was out of town, to join us for dinner. He came again later in the week and ended up staying for lunch. :) We also were blessed to be hosting a few people from the States who came to do ministry here. Later in the week someone came to help with a project and when his water taxi was late to pick him up, we told him to stay and eat with us. He profusely thanked us for the Red Thai Curry Chicken and rice dinner we were having that night because he said he loved Thai food and the only Thai restaurant in the area closed a couple of years ago. He said, "Wow, you took me back to three years ago when I would eat Thai food every single day. This was so delicious. Thank you for bringing back a good memory for me."
Today while shopping in town on another island, we ran into this man and he once again thanked us for inviting him to eat with us and said he continues to think about the delicious Thai food we had that night and how much he had missed eating this dish. I had no idea this impromptu invite would result in such appreciation on his part. I told him today that we would have to invite him again when Thai food is on the menu. :)
I think we underestimate the power of hospitality, of welcoming people to share in life with us, whether over dinner or a cup of coffee or tea. Like the power of testimony, we bring to the table what we have (and it sure doesn't have to be fancy) to share with others, and to draw them into our space. There's an intimacy of breaking bread together, or sharing thoughts and moments with someone over a cup of tea. And it sets the stage for developing and deepening relationships, and is the platform for opening up and sharing. That's what I love about inviting people in.
I still don't really love to cook, but I do love to feed people and share our space with them! I love that people respond so positively when they are served in this way. I like to send home some leftovers with our guests (assuming they liked the food!) or extra servings of dessert with whoever has joined us and I think it's a nice way to extend that hospitality even after they've left.
Having been on receiving end of wonderful hospitality too I know that for me I feel valued and loved (and often quite humbled) when someone generously welcomes us into their home.
Hospitality offers an opportunity for a blessing to be enjoyed by both the giver and the receiver!
Thank you, Lyn, for being such a model hostess...who in addition to serving wonderful meals or special tea and cookies, also is able to give special attention and engage with those gathered on a heart level. This is the perfect combination of Mary AND Martha!
Much love to you! I hope the fact that it's been so long since I've gotten to have a cup of tea with you means that the next face to face chat is a lot closer! :)"
Thanks Shirlene for opening your heart. You truly have the heart of hospitality! We honor you here at Heartistry!!
To follow the Woods, check out their blog at www.woodupdate.com