The dry mideastern breeze rustled the leaves of the ancient allon trees, barely relieving the intense mid-day heat. In the door of his tent sat a man, his face lined with age, deep in thought. He was a wanderer, a man not content with cities and civilizations, with the easy, shallow religions he had seen. He was searching for something real and lasting a truly spiritual life. He had been searching earnestly for a long time.
In his journeys, a tribe had grown up around him. Surrounding the huge, gnarled trees were tents, goats, sheep, men, women, children, cattle — a bustling social life full of human contact and human responsibilities. Of course, it didn't bustle much in the heat of the day, but at all other times there was much coming and going, talking, singing, telling stories, and listening, as well as the daily tasks of caring for people and animals.
They had a vision and a direction. Something in the character of this man compelled others to join him, follow him, suffer with him, trust him, and touch the spiritual reality that he touched. What it was that inspired such loyalty among so many was clear to see that hot afternoon. Three travelers came into view near the camp, and with great urgency the old man leapt to his feet and ran from the tent to meet them. With the simplicity of a man used to doing what was deeply in his heart, he bowed before the visitors and pleaded with them to do him the favor of entering his camp and accepting a little hospitality. And when they consented, he ran with excitement and mobilized the whole tribe into preparing a feast for these guests. Then he served it to them himself and stood eagerly by while they enjoyed it.
The unique thing about his lavish hospitality wasn't that it was done in the sweltering heat, but that it was done without any pretense. The tribal life he lived was a spontaneous life. He really wanted to feed those people. It wasn't just a good deed or an obligation. It was a delight. He lived to be able to express such hospitality. It was the essence of the spiritual life that he lived.
At one time most of humanity lived tribally. Not just native Americans, but all races experienced the intimate contact and dependency on one another that tribes express. At one time hospitality was normal, and coldness to a stranger was such a horror that people dared not shun a passer-by. At one time what was normal was normality.
Nowadays, however, "hospitality" is what you pay for at a fancy inn. Care for the stranger is the business of the soup line and the shelter. Loyalty is a quaint word from the past. Following a man, like that little tribe under the allon trees did, is a frightening thought. And so the simple, spontaneous, tribal life, with all its social benefits and all its practical responsibilities, can hardly be found.
And yet, in spite of all, the same spirit that inspired that wanderer of long ago continues to call people out of the cities, out of the cold and shallow experience of today's society and into a life of loyalty, care, hospitality, simple trust, and childlike following.
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