As we approach our day of Thanksgiving… a time when we welcome family, friends or even strangers into our homes to sit together at the table, I am reminded of the importance to hospitality. Offering hospitality is not just a matter of good manners, it is in fact a matter of great spiritual importance. Indeed, it one the primary, yet consistently overlooked values in Judeo/Christian Scripture. In biblical times offering people food and shelter was more than just politeness, it was the law of the land. It is so central that the violation of the hospitality code could provoke the wrath of God. The famous story in which God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing to do with homosexuality… no the great sin that incites God’s wrath is not the mob’s desire to gang rape the male guests whom Lot took into his house, it is the utter disregard for the hospitality code their action demonstrates. One was honor bound to take in strangers and offer them food and shelter for the night. To not only refuse hospitality but worse, to violate the shelter that had been offered was as bad of a social (and sacred) offense as one could commit.
Anyway, getting back to both the present day and to beer, there are few places where this ancient ideal of hospitality is seen in our culture anymore. Certainly the idea of welcoming a total stranger into our home seems crazy and given the realities of violence, drugs and theft, it is sadly rather understandable. Yet there is still one bastion of hospitality left… the bar. It is there that complete strangers engage in conversation and offer a gesture of friendship by buying rounds for one another. Please note, I am excluding the pickup scene, yet even so it is not at all a rare phenomenon. Most of us have been on both the buying and receiving end. I have experienced it all over the world as well as in my neighborhood. Where else can you go and have someone with whom you’ve done little more than exchanged names or a hand shake or even just a friendly nod shell out $3-6 for you? Nowhere else comes to mind for me… In fact in some places, like Ireland for instance, it is can even be considered rude NOT to buy a beer for the person who just sat next to you, especially if you have struck up a conversation. So the next time you sit down at a bar, take a moment to engage the person next to you and buy them a round for when you do, you are not just being friendly, you are also partaking in one of the most ancient customs in existence and doing your part to affirm and strengthen the bonds of our common humanity. That way wherever you are and whoever you are with this holiday, you can still find a sense of family and belonging.