We’d been married just about six months and lived on the west side of Indianapolis. Mark drove a delivery truck all over Indiana for his family’s glass and plastics business. He’d been in southern Indiana that day and I was waiting for him to come home to a spaghetti dinner I’d spent the last hour making. This was 34 years ago, before there were cell phones or texting or other easy ways to stay in touch when you were apart.
I heard Mark’s truck pull up outside our mobile home. I greeted him at the door with a smile. He kissed me and said, “Hey, I brought someone home for dinner.” Surprised, I asked him who it was. He said, “I picked up a guy at the truck stop in Evansville. He was trying to get to northern Indiana so I told him I could give him a ride as far as Indianapolis. We talked as we drove and he could really use a good meal before I run him up to the mission where he can spend the night. I hope it’s okay for him to join us.”
I was surprised, but happy to share what we had. Thankfully, I was raised in a home where there was always room for one more at the dinner table.
Mark went out and invited Foster to come inside and join us for dinner. We added a third chair around our little table for two, making our dinner for two into a dinner for three. After dinner and delightful conversation, we all jumped in the truck and drove to the homeless shelter in downtown Indianapolis. It was the middle of December and terribly cold. I remember noticing that Foster wasn’t wearing gloves. When he confirmed that he didn’t have gloves I took off my own pair–a black stretchy pair that easily fit a man or a woman–and handed them to him wishing him the best along the journey.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Those words in Hebrews 13:2 have always stuck with me. While we never heard from Foster again, Mark and I were bonded together that day by our shared value for hospitality.
That’s why we decided six months ago to start hosting Airbnb. We’ve loved sharing our home and meeting so many wonderful people. So far we’ve hosted dozens of folks: a family coming to visit their ISU student on Parent’s Weekend, a businessman from China, a couple driving from Florida to their home in Wisconsin, a mother needing a break from everyday life and wanting a long weekend away, a family coming together to celebrate their son/grandson’s graduation from ISU, three families on house-hunting trips preparing for a move to our community, a father and daughter taking a trip down Route 66 before the daughter headed off to the mission field. We even hosted a baseball team of free agents playing AAA teams like our local Cornbelters, each one living the baseball dream and hoping to get picked up by one of the teams they played (and one of the guys ended up getting picked up by the Cornbelters that day!)
Sometimes we get the opportunity to visit with folks and sometimes they arrive just in time to head to bed and head out early in the morning. Either way, we get the opportunity to give them a home away from home for the night.
We have a big, nearly empty home now that most of the kids are gone. Why not use it for hospitality? I can truly say it’s become quite a mission field as we’ve encouraged marriages, helped folks new to town, and even shared deep faith-building conversations when the opportunity has presented itself.
We set our own calendar and choose to approve each reservation request, always screening their reviews from previous stays before saying yes. We’ve had a few first time Airbnb users who didn’t have reviews, but our interaction with them through the Airbnb app or website always allows us to get to know them and their reason for travel before saying yes. All money is handled through the Airbnb app, allowing us to earn a little extra income on the side. We’ve been pleased with Airbnb as a company and they’ve set up a great plan for establishing trust and safety into their program.
If you have the gift of hospitality, you might consider joining the Airbnb family as a host. We’ve found it a wonderful way to meet people and provide a warm, safe place for folks traveling to or through our community.
We now use Airbnb in our own travels and prefer it over a hotel. It’s less expensive and we often meet wonderful people. Our first experience was in December of 2015 when we traveled to visit our son, Evan, who lives near Hollywood in Los Angeles. Every hotel in the area was $250/night and that was simply out of our price range. We found an apartment to rent on Airbnb for $85/night. The couple happened to be out of town so we had the place to ourselves, including a kitchen where we could make our own meals for the week. We caught the Airbnb bug on that trip and decided to start using it for other trips.
I am still amazed that a hospitality seed was planted some 34 years ago when Mark and I shared an impromptu spaghetti dinner with a man named Foster. Maybe he really was an angel and we didn’t know it. He certainly made an impression on us and we’re still living that out today.
What about you? Have you ever used Airbnb or any other home sharing experience? What do you do to reach out to those around you?