Cross-Cultural Interaction

Building up the kindness muscle

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about travel, so I thought that’d be a good topic to round this week out. In honor of our summer Airbnb guests who recently left, I’ve decided to write about an experience that I had traveling with Airbnb several years ago.

It’s a dream of mine to visit every country in the world. When I was trying to decide on where to go a few years ago, Oceania – the only inhabited continent I had yet to visit – seemed like an obvious choice.

So Michael and I made our way Down Under for two magical weeks of snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and exploring the northern island of New Zealand.

It truly is a breathtaking part of the world.

The quantity and diversity of coral on the reef was breathtaking. The colors of the New Zealand countryside were like nothing I’ve ever seen. Hobbiton, of course, made the Lord of the Rings lover in me do somersaults with glee.

We saw more than our fair share of strange and beautiful places while we were down under. What always strikes me whenever either of us talks about our trip, however, is that we always spend as much time or more talking about the woman who hosted us as we do gushing over the natural wonders we saw.

We stayed with Airbnb hosts throughout the trip, and when we got to Auckland we just happened to stay with a woman named Vee. Vee lives in a small, unassuming home on the outskirts of Auckland. While she keeps her spare room neat and tidy, it’s nothing to write home about.

But Vee herself is another matter entirely.

Vee was hands-down the best host I’ve ever stayed with, by a long shot.

She picked us up from the airport when we arrived in the middle of the night. Then she made us breakfast and took us to get a car rental the next day. She even stayed home from work one day and took us all over her beautiful city, showing us haunts we never would have found on our own. And we had never even met her!

When I think about goals for hosting, about how I want my guests to feel after they’ve left my apartment, Vee is always the example that springs to mind. There is an enormous difference between letting a stranger stay in your house and choosing to treat said stranger like family.

As a Christian, it has an extra layer for me. Jesus instructed – no, commanded – us to be kind to strangers and help those who need it. To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in jail, and invite the stranger in. I like to think that the unspoken part of that goes something like this – invite the stranger in, and treat them as a stranger no more.

That is what I strive for with my guests, although I’m under no delusions – I’ve still got a long way to go!

Regardless of your religious persuasion, treating strangers well is a valuable skill and dying art.

I encourage you to practice it, to build up your kindness muscle. They may not be able to pay you back for how you help them, but that doesn’t make it a wasted effort.

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