All humans desire to be loved and accepted. That desire has been built within all of us. Community and hospitality are one of the many ways that love can be shared, filling a need everyone has. Through the love that community and hospitality provide, people not only receive the benefits of emotional healing but physical healing, as well.
I recently traveled with a team of physical therapists to Kenya to provide physical therapy for those in need of treatment. I went to Kenya thinking I would be the one providing healing services through my medical training. However, the people of Kenya taught me that medicine is not the only means to physical healing — community and hospitality also play a huge role in the healing process.
Of note, Kenyans are by far the most hospitable people I have ever encountered; they welcome everyone with open arms. In villages, every home has an open door and an open invitation. When it rains, you’re welcome to enter the nearest one in order to take shelter, even if someone is not home. When traveling and need a place to rest for the night, it’s not uncommon in some of the villages to knock on someone’s door and ask if you can stay.
There were several occasions where I, personally, went to do medical hut visits and was offered to stay after the treatment and to drink a cup of chai or eat some roasted corn. Even if a home did not have a lot to offer, a family would offer with open hearts and genuine joy the best of what they could.
Every home has an open door and an open invitation.
Kenyans embrace community and treat neighbors and friends as if they were family. There’s no such thing as not knowing who lives next to you or who lives down the road. It’s common for neighbors and friends to spend their day together, all of which can consist of caring for those who are sick, cooking with one another, babysitting each others’ kids or helping a neighbor with a need. In the village itself, children roam freely miles away from their parents and homes because the whole village takes it as their responsibility to watch over them. Everyone has a community mindset.
My experience in Kenya got me thinking. How can community and hospitality be healing for the rest of us?
Hospitality and community provides a warm environment that embraces people and values their presence. An environment that makes people feel valued and welcomed has a special effect. In such an environment, people feel accepted for the way they are and more confident in their own skin.
When a person has a higher self-esteem, that person is more likely to make good choices and healthier decisions in life such as eating better, exercising and spending time in the community. In comparison, a person who has a low self-esteem is more prone to eating unhealthy comfort foods, being less active and spending less time in community.
Hospitality and community provides a space where people can feel safe and decompress. When in community with friends and family, a person has a place where they can share and process their stresses and struggles. With less stress, there is less release of cortisol, a hormone that causes inflammation and slows the healing process in the body.
There are many different factors that lead to depression, but one of them is being in isolation and feeling lonely. Creating a hospitable environment where a person feels cared for and recognized can decrease a sense of loneliness. Also, finding a community or helping plug someone into a community can give them a network of friends with whom they can live life. Everyone desires to feel like they belong and are accepted.
The immune system strengthens.
People who are in community and are connected with others have a better immune system compared to those who are lonely. A possible reason for this is maybe due to better relaxation, the release of endorphins and the release of cytokines. Cytokines are molecules that assist in immune responses and stimulate cells to move towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma. Cytokines are vital to fight of infections and to assist in immune responses.
How can you incorporate hospitality and community into your everyday life? Here are a few ideas:
Spend less time in isolation.
– Limit your time on social media.
– Put a stop to Netflix binging.
– Create a healthy boundary separating work from personal life, making sure to spend time doing other things.
Spend more time in community and creating a hospitable environment.
– Host a small get together at your house.
– Dedicate a certain amount of time daily or weekly to spend with a friend, family member or someone you’ve been wanting to get to know.
– Call a friend or family member on your commute to work.
– Exercise with a friend or group rather than exercise alone.
– Take the time to care for someone in need of a listening ear or warm embrace.
How has community played a healing role in your life?
Images via Amanda Nolan Booker