Xenia (Greek: ξενία) is the ancient Greek sacred rule of hospitality (corresponding to the Latin concept of Hospitium), the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home or associates of the host. The rituals of hospitality created and expressed a reciprocal relationship between guest and host expressed in both material benefits (e.g. gifts, protection, shelter) as well as non-material ones (e.g. favors, certain normative rights). The term is often translated as “Guest-Friendship” or (“Ritualized Friendship”) because the rituals of hospitality created and expressed a reciprocal relationship between guest and host. Hence, it is also known as “Guest-Friend”.
One of the prime motivations of living an itinerant lifestyle is the warmth of xenia. The veracity of xenia is, it never appears in the same way. It has its unique appearance in every home. It’s been more than a year yet the warmth of Xenia in my first visit to Shillong is so tangible! Whether it is about the caring nature of my cab driver Mr. Naresh after my arrival at Guwahati Airport and at midnight waiting almost an hour for someone to receive me at Shillong or at my departure from Shillong, the warmth of Xenia wrapped in that tiffin box given by Dr. Aunty Veera & Uncle Lumlang, each of those tiny days, small incidents, casual friendly talks, and good-bye hugs have enabled me to bag what is the love of hospitality.
“Love cannot remain by itself – it has no meaning.
Love has to be put into action and that action is service”. (Mother Teresa)
Action is the tangible output that is primarily sourced by Love. LOVE PRECEDES ACTION. It is the sacred love for others in our heart that convinces our mind to go an extra-mile, which reflects in Xenia. Often, we consider love as an emotion whereas love is chiefly an action word. And the Bible puts it like this,
“Love is Patient and Kind. Love is Admiring. Love is Cordial, Love is Forgiving.
Love rejoices in justice. Love is consistent, Love has faith, Love is Hopeful,
and Love endures through every circumstance.
Three things last forever – Faith, Hope, and Love –
and the greatest of these is Love”
A few years back, for an official purpose, I had my first visit to Kandhamal, one of the remote places in the state of Odisha. By the time, I reached there it was midnight, there was no mobile network, and unknown to me a couple of hours prior to my arrival the local govt. authorities declared that area as “no activity zone during the night” due to Mao’s activity. As I left the bus and was making mind to wait till the sunlight suddenly, I saw a man on a bike from the dark forest road asking, “Are you Avinash?” Thank God, it was none other than that good godly man whom I was looking for. Later I realized he had to sacrifice his whole night rest and risk his life just to receive me.
Someone penned rightly,
“People will forget what you said, forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
A guest is mostly at a strange place and is aloof to our culture. Making mistakes and putting the host in a problem is not their intent rather it is the output of their mere ignorance. Excusing their flaws and giving them comfort is only possible when we shift our perspective and pose ourselves WEARING THEIR SHOES.
A tale goes like this;
In a small-town, a poor man always begged at a rich man’s palace gate and the rich man always treated him just like dogs. He threw morsel at him and mocked him. Unfortunately, both the rich man and the poor man died on the same day. The rich man went to hell and the poor man went to heaven. From hell, the rich man cried out to God,
Richman: God, it’s too painful here, it’s unbearable. Could you please take me to heaven? Why did you put me in hell, what I have done?
God said, I visited you but you treated me like your dogs and threw morsels at me. You mocked my condition.
Richman: God, when did I do that to you?
God: I visited you through the poor man. And you did that to me all that you have done to the poor man.
The Bible says,
“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some WHO HAVE DONE THIS HAVE ENTERTAINED ANGELS without realizing it!”