Why I’m thankful for Brother Shawn.

It is Thankful Tuesday and I, after having been MIA for almost a week, am back in San Francisco (along with the post-family-visit-blues). This past week has been wonderful, packed with some amazing niece and nephew time, one good steak, one smothered fajita (I’ve got to stop eating like a 20 year old. Seriously. It’s over.), one daring drowning rescue in the baby pool (special thanks to my brother Brooks for snatching my son out while I sprinted in slow motion through water while cussing at the top of my lungs), and two slow, restful days at a Benedictine monastery in the mountains of New Mexico.

And in honor of Thankful Tuesday, I want to focus on the sweetness of my time with the brothers (and sisters!) and their dear monastic home where I was welcomed as a guest in last week. I spent two days at a monastery once before. It was last December for an Advent retreat. I drove by myself around seven hours south towards Los Angeles and stayed at a large beautiful monastery in the desert. The monks I met there were generous and deliberate. Many were academic types: quiet and thoughtful. Though all thirty or so I came across were kind and intentional about our (the guests) comfort and welcome, I never felt pursued. My time there felt as though I were welcome on the periphery of something already happening. And watching the monks in their lives and worship was meaningful.

But what I found last week was a more tender, less reasoned response to hospitality. The monastery I experienced was a bit more raw, more obvious in its needs. It was a third the size of the monastery I visited before. Its monks were aging. The need for youth was obvious. And in the midst of that reality, there was Brother Shawn, a tender hearted, middle-aged man, who never failed to recall the name of every guest there. Brother Shawn was always nearby, always willing to share his life. I was there two days. He hiked with four of us guests after dinner the first night I was there, browsed books with us in the bookstore the second. He shared stories with us.

Brother Shawn would not win any cool awards. He’s the kind of guy who can easily be written off as awkward. But his ability to love in the most simplistic, joyful way was inspiring to me. During breakfast, I’d grabbed myself a cup of decaf at a side table before hopping in line for eggs. Ten minutes later he was at my table with coffee pots in hand refilling. When he got to me, he lifted up the green-rimmed handle pot and whispered, “Decaf, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “How’d you know?”

“Oh, I just noticed.”

That is the kind of hospitality I long to practice. The noticing.

So this Thankful Tuesday, I’m thankful for Brother Shawn for noticing the need, the joy, the details of the people who come into his life. I’m thankful that he has taken his calling to hospitality seriously. And my prayer is that today in the midst of my simple day of post-vacation errands and a play date at the park, I would live out my calling to notice.  Who knows who or what I’ll see if I simply look…

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