Monday, May 08, 2006

Guest Friendship

The tradition of guest friendship extends far back in time. For instance, read Genesis 18:1-15, Judges 19:16-30 and various instances in the Odyssey, e.g. the famous, Nausikaa passage. I have witnessed this practice in many parts of the world and always feel somewhat unsettled when I am greeted so warmly and favoured so much by people that are truly strangers. I think I do not feel entirely comfortable in these situations because the situation does not make sense in a "typical" North American framework. In most of the urban centres of North America one does not usually welcome and entertain a stranger who is passing through town. This may be due to many things, including distrust and the often used situation in Hollywood movies to set up a murder or similar crime. Also, the culture in North America tends to dictate that you need to deserve something to receive it. While this mentality is a strong basis for a strong work ethic, it doesn't necessarily lead you to be generous or receive unwarranted generousity. Why, in some cultures and communities, am I favoured for being a stranger? I think that this preference is due to survival and is more present in cultures that live in harsh environments. Thus, survival depends on sharing. Who knows when you yourself will be stranded in a desert or tundra without a hope? Fun-loving cultures also have a unique way of welcoming you in celebration. Lastly, in my experience in North America it is the minorities (immigrants and aboriginals) that are most proficient in extending generousity to strangers. This experience is ironic as many attempt to marginalize them or state that they only take; when, in fact, it is they that give.

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