The author of this blog post, Elizabeth Coyle, is a new member of Lydia’s House. She serves as a resident volunteer and has committed to long-term partnership with Meridith and Mary Ellen to sustain life at Lydia’s. She comes to us from the University of San Diego, where she served as a campus minister for the past 3 years. Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, she is a Xavier alum and is happy to be back in Norwood after many years away.
In my three short weeks at Lydia’s House, I have been the recipient of generous hospitality in profound ways. I came into this work thinking that it would be my task to help create a sense of welcome for others. I knew that I wanted to give of myself in ways that put others at ease, invited conversation, and made the stranger feel at home. It has been humbling to realize that, right now, I am the one who is a stranger to be welcomed. Right now, I am the one who is called to receive the kind of welcome that one day I hope to give. This community is my teacher about the kind of volunteer and the kind of Christian I am called to be.
When I first pulled up to the house on a Friday afternoon in June, after 5 days of driving solo from San Diego, California, a homemade lunch was waiting. A committed volunteer was sitting on the porch to greet me, despite the fact I was running very late. That was just the beginning of an outpouring of welcome from what seems to be all of Norwood and beyond. Before I could ask, Ben sanded down my bedroom door so it could close properly. Laura has delivered our CSA vegetables each week and has welcomed me into the routine of morning prayer. Regular volunteer Elizabeth sat on the front porch with me one morning, chatting about life, before later painting bookshelves and moving one all the way up to the third-floor landing. A current guest has regularly invited me to join her for after-dinner walks, which are quickly becoming a tradition in the house. And our summer intern Taffany has made sure that the meals of these past three weeks have been among the best of my life.
Of course, hospitality is about more than good conversation and good food. It also takes a willingness to be vulnerable. It takes trust. In my short time here, guests and volunteers alike have let me in by entrusting me with parts of their stories. In short, I have been invited into joy but also into sorrow. I felt this most profoundly about a week in. During a difficult time for her, in the midst of visible emotion and while overwhelmed by the situation at hand, one member of our community turned to me and said: “Welcome to Lydia’s House.” It was an example to me of the type of hospitality we are each called to share with others. We welcome others into our community, our homes, and our lives when we bring our authentic selves to them, just as we are. This is the daily work of Lydia’s House, not just a house but a home of hospitality and warm welcome. I truly feel blessed to be one small part of this mission and to be one small part of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work in our world. Thanks to each of you who have welcomed me so warmly into this new life. Stop on by some day so I can repay the favor.