By Rev. Michael Waters
“Honey, you so sweet! Sugar got a long way to get you.”
- Honey, Erykah Badu (2008).
The coming of spring has brought with it the usual chorus of sneezes and coughs. The visual effects of eye waterworks and athletic noses have joined this annual spectacle. And puffy eyes and scratchy throats have starred in supporting roles.
One recent evening as we were preparing to retire for the night, my wife, Yulise, expressed to me that she was experiencing some discomfort in her throat. I arose from our bed and began my noble odyssey down the hall, through the living room, and into the kitchen, where I put some water on to boil.
I soon returned to her side with some tea and an unopened economy-sized container of honey I found nestled near the back of our pantry. I could not recall purchasing this honey and assumed that Yulise had purchased it during one of her monthly expeditions to the Sam’s Club.
As I squeezed the honey into her tea, Yulise provided a unique antidote that made my rather mundane action take on a metaphysical quality. Unbeknownst to me, the container of honey had been given to us by her recently deceased mother. My mother-in-law, Gloria, would often purchase items for our family during her own weekend shopping expeditions: another noisy toy for her grandson Jeremiah or another outfit for her granddaughter Hope.
I don’t know how such a large container of honey fit into her shopping plans or what inspired the purchase. I don’t know if the purchase was planned or impulsive? But what I do know is that as I squeezed out the honey into my wife’s tea, I felt as though I was a conduit of a mother’s love to her daughter. I could not help but to think that even though my mother-in-law had been gone from us for several months, her acts of generosity and hospitality continued to minister to us.
Acts of generosity and hospitality can never be underestimated in their potential to provide strength and encouragement to others, especially when they need it the most. When we anticipate the needs and concerns of others, then act to meet said needs and concerns, no matter how menial they may appear, we affirm our commitment to several truths: that it is better to give than to receive, that we are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper, and that, as Dr. King once spoke, we more fully understand that “their destiny is tied up with our destiny.”
Where would our communities’ be if more people fully embraced this understanding of mutual destiny and hospitality towards others? We should all dedicate our lives to acts of radical generosity and hospitality. And we should pray that our acts of generosity and hospitality outlive us to encourage and support generations yet unborn.
Furthermore, our dedication to acts of radical generosity and hospitality should not be limited to people who are just like us. Generosity and hospitality must be extended to all people, everywhere. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:1-3). Regardless of one’s theology about celestial beings, the imperative contained within these words should not be overlooked. We should extend heavenly hospitality and God-like generosity to all people!
As regal and refined as she was, my mother-in-law was also well versed in the nomenclature of the South Dallas community in which she was raised. One of her favorite terms of endearment was “Honey,” and she used it with great dexterity: “Honey child,” “Hon-Aye, please.” and “Hon-Aye GGGIIRRRLLL!”
Unfortunately, this allergy season has caused us to return to our economy-sized container of honey several times. But upon each use, I reflect on the generous spirit who provided this gift and think “Honey, you so sweet!” And I am inspired to leave the world a little sweeter than I found it!