This post features Francie Ford, who generously agreed to be the volunteer innkeeper during community week last fall.
During Community Week last autumn, when the Sisters conduct the business of the Monastery, a family requested several days of reservations for the entire Inn. Because they did not want to disappoint their guests, the Sister innkeepers turned to me.
I felt like a little girl, playing house; it was going to be “my” space, into which to welcome the guests. I would serve the treats; I would get the breakfast. But, shortly before the guests arrived, the reality hit me. This week was my responsibility. It was going to be up to me to see to the credit card transfers, the assignment of the rooms and the sorting of the proper keys, the maintenance of the flower gardens, the coffee and food. And, although I knew I could interrupt the Sisters if an emergency occurred, I did not want to have to do that. Yikes!
My greatest concern, however, was that I would not provide the true welcoming hospitality the Sisters give. And for this lack there was no panic button; I could not ask a guest to wait while I found someone to take over welcoming them. Yikes, again!
Oh, me of little faith. I had not counted on the grace that abounds in that place. The Sisters would never have asked me had they not believed I could do the job. They had carefully trained me, so gently that I had not realized how much I had learned. When the guests arrived, welcoming them was natural. When I had difficulty with the credit cards, the guests were patient. When I did anything for them, they were unstintingly grateful.
What I received in turn were blessings beyond imagining. When my friends ask what I do at The Inn, or why I continue to volunteer, I reply that being there provides the way to experience what really matters to me: service, hospitality, conviviality. I can hardly wait to go again.