One of the things Doug and I noticed on our drive from Spokane to Los Angeles was the remarkable civility and warmth we experienced in Washington, Oregon and Northern California. Living in a big city, and maybe especially a place like L.A., there is this shell or crust (or spikes, even) that develops between people: I regularly expect behavior here that is abrasive, self-seeking, and outright rude. It feels perfectly normal here to be waiting to enter a parking space with turn signal on, only to have someone come from another direction and take the space for themselves, never making eye contact. And I won’t even start on driving habits in general…

On our drive, I would repeatedly return to the van, open my door and say to Doug: “Where ARE we?!?” in response to some generosity or kindness from a stranger. There was Maggie, the lady who sold us her van, who insisted on hiding two stuffed animals that had belonged to her kids when they were young in the van for Aaron and Mercy to find. There was Bob, the Tillamook Fred Meyer’s manager who stopped his workday to play catch with my son for at least ten minutes while we stood in line to pay for our “desperation toys” that Grandma Peggy bought for our road trip. There was the entire staff of the diner in Shasta, Oregon who smiled and talked with us and made the kids laugh. And my favorite–the well-dressed luxury car driver with the lady with the giant purse who stopped me in a Starbucks outside of Palo Alto to apologize for honking at us while Doug was pulled over in the parking lot letting Mercy and I out by the entrance (I think we were blocking him in or something-we actually never heard him honk). When he saw me inside the store and saw that I was a pregnant lady with a small child, he was beside himself with apologies for having acted so impatiently.

It just reminds me how hospitality is not simply what goes on inside our front doors, but rather something we carry with us. It is how we choose to bless or curse those around us; whether we choose to see or turn our eyes away; whether we decide to share humanity with another person, if only for a moment, or choose instead to be our own universe. Reading about Jesus, I am struck by how simple so much of his ministry was in terms of choosing to be present to whomever crossed his path. Jesus saw people and welcomed them, in ways that surely made people say: “Where ARE we?!?”


  1. Missionaries tend to get culture shock. Sounds like you guys are feeling some of it.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in the Northwest and grew up in Northern California and now live in Denver so I appreciate the cultural differences you’re pointing out.

    I took my elderly mother-in-law’s TV in to drop it off for repairs yesterday with a 60 year old guy originally from Kansas who’s been fixing electronic stuff for 30 years here in Denver. I thought the whole thing would take 5 minutes, but I was still there an hour later as we ‘visited’ and got to know each other. People in Colorado ‘visit’ with each other even over simple business transactions :^)

    Having lived in LA for 30 years, though, I miss it. Que Ciudad!

    I especially miss it when I’m driving here in Denver among the law abiding citizens who all seem to drive 5 miles an hour below the speed limit. Oh for the days of weaving in and out of high speed traffic among people who know what they’re doing behind the wheel :^)

  2. Thanks for this post. I really appreciate the reminders about hospitality and being present for whomever crosses our path. I think that is such a good bottom line principle to live life from, but it is one that is easy for me to push aside with all the “busyness” that I face during the day. Thank you for challenging me in this way.

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