When I was a junior in high school, I took a career aptitude test. It was supposed to help me figure out how to choose a major in college and to pursue something that would fit my interests and passions. I couldn’t wait for the results to get back.
Number 1 most suited career for me? Hotel Manager.
So I went on to major in Biology, get a teaching certification, move to Indonesia and teach upper level high school sciences for 11 years. It was good.
And what am I doing now? Managing a resort.
Ironic? A bit. And one thing is for sure… teaching does not grow skills that are conducive to the hospitality industry. Here’s an example from a class camping trip:
Student: Miss Blair, I don’t want to get up early and make the fire for breakfast.
Me: Would you like to eat breakfast?
Me: Who seems like the right person to make the fire?
Me: What is the purpose of this trip?
Student: For us to learn how to camp.
Me: Who seems like the right person to make the fire?
It’s quite a feat to move from the world of education to the service industry. It requires a complete paradigm shift. And on the long shot that one of my former guests would ever stumble upon this blog post, I will refrain from sharing any sample dialogues here. But one valuable principle I have learned in the last couple of years is that, regardless of the guest’s request (and despite my innate desire to teach them new ways of responding to set backs on their resort vacations) — The guest is king.
This concept took awhile to sink in. My previous life experiences of staying in cheap motels in America hardly prepared me for the complaints of guests at an over-water resort on an idyllic, remote beach in Indonesia. Sometimes I wonder if the appalled reaction in my mind showed completely on my face in those early months of working out there. But with time, I think I have started to grow a bit. There is something sort of satisfying about sitting down with my staff and figuring out how to solve guest complaints so that they leave having forgotten the issue altogether and are instead completely enamored by the magical experience they had. I’m not great at it… but I’m getting better, I think.
As I have been studying the Christmas Story again this year, my attention has turned to the innkeeper. This is not a brand new concept. There are hundreds of blog posts on this topic. Some scorn the innkeeper as having missed the point of Christmas. Some explain that the inn wasn’t really a hotel at all, but actually a guest room in a family member’s house, which was already filled by other family coming to register as well.
My innkeeper mindset can’t help but think of a number of ways that this could have worked out for Mary and Joseph though… for a few days anyway, surely? Special discounts for other guests to move or consolidate? Move the inn staff to an attic or storage closet? But then again, who knows? Maybe those staying in the guest room at that inn were in an even worse medical situation. Maybe that innkeeper actually did come up with the most gracious and accommodating option available by offering that manger. I’d at least like to try to give him/her the benefit of the doubt!
There really is hardly enough in Luke 2 to judge what all actually happened regarding the housing situation:
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – Luke 2:6-7
But one thing we know for sure — that Guest was King.
Maybe the innkeeper really was too busy and missed out on “the reason for the season.” Maybe the innkeeper is guilty as charged by the majority of commentaries. Without question, it’s easy to do. Run your resort. Make sure guests aren’t complaining. Check for broken door handles and smudges on the windows. Smile a lot. It can be all-consuming at times.
But I think, to me, the point is that on that night, the innkeeper’s guest was King. And it’s very possible that he didn’t even know it. I’m challenged and sobered by this. You just never know who your guests are… at your church, in your home, in your place of business. Each of them has a story. Some are diplomats. Some are farmers. Some are newlyweds. Some are millionaires. Most are broken. And all need the King.
For years, I’ve been fascinated by an obscure verse in Hebrews…
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. — Heb 13:2
It’s a challenge to me. It’s tiring sometimes out at the resort. Every day new people come and go. And honestly, there are times that I don’t even try to get to know them. On a bad day, I won’t even introduce myself. It’s far from the Christmas spirit… and definitely far from the call to show genuine hospitality. But each person that steps foot on our property (or that steps into my sphere of influence) is worthy to be treated with honor.
By saying hi…
By going the extra mile…
By asking questions and listening to stories…
By putting aside my agenda for the day…
By doing the very best I can to meet the needs (and wants) of my guests… I can treat them as royalty. And I think it’s a good practice to get into for life in general. I want to be an innkeeper (and a person) who treats the guests in my life as King. Why? Because that Baby King grew to teach us that when we feed the hungry, visit the sick, love the least, we also do it to Him (Matthew 25:35-40).
Our Christmas holidays will all look a bit different. Mine will be at a resort, hosting sand angel competitions, serving fresh coconuts and making Christmas cookies on the beach. Perhaps yours will be snuggled with family around a fire and a sparkling tree. Maybe you’ll be with surrogate family. Maybe your heart will be full of warmth and joy… or maybe it will be pierced with the pain of loss. But regardless of where we are or how we plan to celebrate this year, my take-away… my Christmas challenge… is this:
Make room for a guest. Hear their stories. Serve them lavishly.
And treat them as king.