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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hospitality (02/07/05)

TITLE: Hospitality Room
By Lori Othouse


Lydia pushed her way through the noisy crowd and into the hallway. She walked over to the door and looked up. A sign with gold letters said "Hospitality Room". This was where all visitors were invited to go to meet the pastor and be welcomed to the church.

It had taken her a while to get here. She grew up in church, actually, but the older she got, the more inconsistencies she saw. Her mother was the church secretary for a while, so she knew things most people didn't. The pastor preached love and compassion, but many days her mother would come home in tears because of the way he talked to her. He lambasted adulterers for their sinful lifestyle, but when he was caught with one of the deacon's wives, he just made up excuses and told people it was between him and God.

When Lydia went to college, she decided that was enough of church. After what she had seen, the world couldn't be much worse. She had married, had a daughter and a promising job, but as good as all that was, something was left wanting. She ignored what she knew was the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Then her marriage began to dissolve, the company downsized and she ended up a single mother working for just above minimum wage. She had wanted so much more for herself and her daughter.

Standing oustide the door, Lydia was surprised to find herself nervous. This was such a large, elegant-looking church. She looked down at the plain, navy blue dress she was wearing. She had gotten it on sale at a thrift store. At the time, she was excited to find such a good deal, but now she felt terribly underdressed. She debated for a moment and then decided to go in, mentally scolding herself for being so petty.

The room was elegant, just like the rest of the church. Small groups of people stood talking and laughing, sipping coffee from delicate little cups. No one seemed to notice her at first, so she slowly walked over to a group of women nearby. She stood near them for an awkward minute and then spoke.

"Hi," she said quietly.

They stopped their conversation and turned to look at her. In their sweeping up and down glances, they seemed to read her entire life story. Uncomfortable but determined, she continued.

"My name is Lydia and I'm-"

"You're new, of course!" one of the women interrupted with a forced smile.

She led her to a table and gave her some forms to fill out. Sticking a paper name tag to her dress, the woman went back to her friends without saying another word. Lydia tried not to make too much of it; besides, she wanted to let the pastor know how well she liked his sermon.

The pastor finally noticed her and politely shook her hand. She was about to mention the sermon when another man grabbed his hand, shaking it vigorously, and pulled him away into another conversation. Lydia stepped back for a moment, looking at the people in the room. She saw another visiting couple with their name tags on being warmly welcomed by several members. The visitors were very nicely dressed and spoke of his law practice and her latest novel. Another visitor who looked like a supermodel was surrounded by doting men offering her everything but the kitchen sink.

Lydia's awkwardness gave way to anger. It was the same feeling she had the last time she was in church at 18. The feeling was long forgotten, but it came back like a flood. Their designer clothes and expensive perfume couldn't hide what was underneath. This was called the Hospitality Room? Hypocrisy Room would be a better name. She quickly exited before anyone could see the tears in her eyes. Angrily, she brushed them away as she hurried through the foyer to the parking lot. They kept coming and blurred her sight, so that she didn't see the kindly couple handing out brochures for a divorce recovery group. She also didn't see the friendly group of girls about her daughter's age or the compassionate adult singles leader. And she didn't see another woman in a plain dress... making her way to the Hospitality Room.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Cynthia Zirkwitz02/14/05
This is a wonderful piece of writing-- polished! I think you might just be talking about the experience of every second person who reads this. I also think that you are "under-classing" yourself and really ought to be writing for the "advanced" category. Excellent!
Deborah Bauers02/17/05
I loved your article. How true it is that we usually see what we are looking for, when we look at life. Thanks so much for sharing.
Suzanne R02/19/05
What an interesting mixture of themes ... hypocrisy, our responsibility to show hospitality and persevere to receive it etc. It held my attention from start to finish and is scarily true to life. Well done.
Sally Hanan02/21/05
Excellent work, and reminds me of how important it is to greet people when they first walk in before it is too late.
Debbie OConnor02/23/05
This is excellent, Lori. One of my favorites this week. I particularly loved the ending with your main character brushing by others as lonely and left out as she was. Powerful!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Very good ending. I think the cross-themes had to do with hospitality as well as this week's challenge called "favoritism". How well we all know how easily "cliques" form within churches, particularly churches with lavish ornate overstated decor. Those churches are usually frequented by the people who paid for them who wouldn't dare attend a church that doesn't look at least half as nice as their homes.