I’ve been travelling lots. All over the country on a (hashtag) university tour for Podium, spreading the word, garnering support, coercing students into volunteering their time in exchange for the experience and the benefit of my editorial wisdom…
Salford, Lincoln, Huddersfield, Cardiff, Bristol, Preston, Brighton, and now Coleraine, I’m the lucky girl who gets to take in the breadth of the UK’s university towns and cities in the hope of inspiring a generation to take the opportunity to have a voice. Most of these places I’ve visited in a day, chugging cross-country on a train. While I was in the north west, I took advantage of having a car and visited my family (and promptly fell ill).
But for places further afield, I’ve been dependent on the hospitality of people I have never met before. Because this is a shoestring trip as far as it can be, so instead of five star hotels, we’ve been making contact with vague connections to see if they know someone brave enough to take in a complete stranger for the night.
Amazingly, there are people who have done this, most excellent hosts who have put me up in freshly laundered beds, fed me dinner and breakfast, given me lifts and generally been very lovely.
There’s a saying that we should demonstrate hospitality to strangers, because by doing so, some have entertained angels. It’s a reference to a story I read this morning, where Abraham, the ancient founder of the three major world faiths, steps out of his tent one morning in the desert and in the distance sees three men approach. He doesn’t wait til they arrive. Instead, he sets a table for them, so that when they pass by he can feed them and engage them in conversation.
In return they bring him a message from God – his really really old wife would have a son the following year to inherit all his wealth and the promise that God would use his family to change the world. It turns out, they weren’t three bedouin blokes wandering past at all, but angels sent from God to chat to Abraham.
Then they carry on with their journey to tell Sodom and Gomorrah they’re going to be destroyed for being corrupt, so it’s not all love and roses. But that’s the Old Testament for you.
It’s an odd position to be in, to be the potential angel in someone else’s house. It all feels the wrong way round. I know I’m no angel especially in the face of such kindness. Am I to deliver a message of lifechanging importance to these people? And then be the harbinger of doom to the next city I visit (which incidentally is Sunderland)?
I guess we can never really fully know how our lives touch each other for good or for ill. I just hope I prove to be a bringer of hope and not of devastation.