Our mayor is doing it again.
One day last week, Mayor C. Ray Nagin was talking to the Texas folks who had hosted thousands of our people who evacuated during the Gustav hurricane week. He praised the Texans, told them how indebted we are to them, then got himself in trouble.
“When this is over,” he said, “we want you to come to visit us in New Orleans. We have 15,000 hotel rooms there waiting for you. Tell them you want the Ray Nagin special rate.”
Problem is, some people took him up on it. He says he never intended that.
As Hurricane Ike took dead aim at the Texas coast, a number of Houstonians decided to evacuate to New Orleans and take advantage of the special “Ray Nagin” rate.
“You want what?” the desk clerks responded to requests for that special rate. “We don’t know of such a thing.”
Phone calls to various hotels all produced the same befuddlements. Mr. Nagin was once again “shooting from the lip,” as they say around here. When the word got to the newspaper, they ran stories about our disappointed guests and our over-promising mayor. The mayor’s people said, “He was just joking. He didn’t mean to be taken seriously.”
I saw the clip on this morning’s news in which Mr. Nagin made this promise last week. In no way did he seem to be joking. He was just talking. Rattling on to hear himself.
We understand that once word got out about what was happening, some people stepped up and paid the hotel bills for the Texas guests. I surely hope so.
One Texan was on television Monday night saying, “I can guarantee you that no Texan I know will ever be back to New Orleans, after all we’ve done for your evacuees and then to be treated this way.”
We’d like to respond that the mayor is not the city and not the citizens, but I’d probably feel the same way he does if I’d driven 6 or 8 hours to get here from Houston and then had that kind of disappointment.
In this morning’s Times-Picayune, a local resident said the next time we evacuate for a hurricane, we should go to the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area of Tennessee. “We went there for Katrina and Gustav,”she wrote, “and they were so kind to us. They gave us our rooms for half price, and got us free tickets to events.”
That’s how to treat a guest.
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers,” Hebrews 13:2 commands. “For in so doing, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
The Greek word for “hospitality,” translated here as “entertaining strangers,” literally means “love of strangers.” The compound word is “philoxenia.”
Hospitality was a big deal to the Old Testament Jews. In Numbers 19, God told His people through Moses, “If a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” (19:33-34)
The matter was so important to our Lord that He made it a primary evidence of one’s relationship with God. “I was a stranger and you took me in,” Matthew 25:35, He says to the righteous at Judgement. And to the wicked, “I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” (25:43)
Hospitality today takes many forms, everything from working at the city auditorium when your town takes in people fleeing before a hurricane, to buying lunch for the guy in the drive-through line behind you, to looking after the homeless in the park, to greeting newcomers in church next Sunday.
Imagine that one you are greeting or feeding is an angel.