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the messy business of hospitality and gift cards...

Amazon marketplace is a wonderful place. You can buy virtually anything you can think of from there with frequent perks of free shipping and next day delivery. It's beautiful.

Katie was given a very generous $100 gift card to Amazon for her birthday not too long ago. She stashed it away with all the other gift cards we get--behind the Kitchen Aid mixer in a small plastic bag. It's where gift cards go to rest until we are ready to use them; a logical decision to keep your wallet from becoming a brick-sized leather lump to rest your buns upon.

Katie has been looking at different things she wanted to get with this gift money and putting them in her shopping cart until she had the full dollar amount, figuring she would pay for it all at once. Well just about a week ago Katie was finally ready to check out and make her purchases. Except...the gift card wasn't in the baggy. She asked me if I had recently used it or misplaced it and I assured her that I hadn't seen it or touched it, as it was her birthday money, not mine.

After searching high and mostly low, it was deemed that the card was lost, or more probable--stolen. I thought back over the past month: a birthday party that featured 50-some guests, a praise band social gathering that featured another some 50 participants, not to mention about a dozen smaller gatherings of family, friends, and neighbors who had all been through our house within the span of about 35 days. The card could have disappeared at any of these events and indeed it is probable that it did. We had a similar situation turn up with a $75 gift card to Kroger that we received shortly after the twins were born. At the time we didn't think much of it, just that it had become misplaced or perhaps that our sleepless brains were misremembering how and when we spent it.

My initial reaction was anger, then betrayal. Someone had come into our house and stolen something that belonged to us! It was one thing if they had asked for it, but to take it without our knowledge...that was a low blow. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was upset about losing money that wasn't mine in the first place. Indeed, it wasn't even Katie's. It was a gift. It was unexpected spending money that we weren't calculating to begin with, so why did it hurt all of a sudden to lose it now? Had we just become so attached to the money that we couldn't bear the thought of letting it go? Was it that we didn't have a chance to say goodbye to the money? Was it that we didn't get anything in exchange? Upon further reflection, all those questions seem a bit foolish, and there was little to do about it now anyway, so we let it go.

And that's right about when I had the epiphany--being hospitable is messy business. 

 When you open your home and your life to others you welcome their good and their bad. Being a host is a rewarding and indeed, a biblical principle (Romans 12:13), but that doesn't mean that it is safe. Things get soiled, broken, stolen, used, abused, or mistreated when guests come over. Either because they don't know the rules of your stuff, they don't care, they are unfamiliar, are greedy, or just are more careless than you. But you know what? That's okay. I would rather be hospitable and lose possessions than to close myself from being able to practice generosity and opening my home and my life to others. 

"If a penny saved is a penny earned, is a penny stolen the same as a penny given?"
-my brain


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