Tomorrow is Hobbit Day, and it commemorates the shared birthdays of J.R.R Tolkien’s beloved characters, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, which falls on September 22nd. Concerning the traditions of Hobbits, naturally, it is a day where one might throw a long-expected party, or rid oneself of their shoes while indulging in the many delicacies found in a Hobbit pantry (can’t forget second breakfast). But perhaps Hobbit Day is also a chance to celebrate our relationship to each other, to the world in which we live, and the joys of hospitality. Hobbits were “hospitable and delighted in parties, and in presents, which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted” (The Fellowship of the Ring, Concerning Hobbits).
Ralph C. Wood writes in his book The Gospel According to Tolkien that Hobbits “seem to understand that nothing that we own is strictly ours. All our possessions belong to the treasury of gifts that God has given to everyone. To show hospitality to others, especially strangers, is to manifest this fundamental human commonality.” Hospitality is a recurring theme throughout scripture, and we are called as a community to extend the table so that all who hunger may be fed, to dismantle all borders that might hinder our neighbors from sharing in those gifts. Wood writes that “a gracious welcome for weary travelers is so vital to the ethos of Middle-earth… throughout The Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship repeatedly benefits from the hospitality shown to them along their way… Hospitality thus proves crucial to the practice of justice in Middle-earth.”
Don’t neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).
Last week, over 50 people seeking asylum traveled from Texas and arrived in Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts, an unexpected party. While their arrival was unexpected, people on the island joined together to provide what they could to show hospitality. They offered food, a safe place to rest, Mass led in Spanish, activities for children, and a sense of community, a place at the table. May these be the stories that guide our journey, that remind us that we belong to each other. As Ralph Wood writes, “we cannot be fully ourselves except through just relations with others—all others.” This is where hope lives.
They stayed long in that good house… and found it hard to leave… whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Evil things did not come into that valley…
All of them… grew refreshed and strong in a few days there. Their clothes were mended as well as their bruises, their tempers and their hopes. Their bags were filled with food and provisions light to carry but strong to bring them over the mountain passes. Their plans were improved with the best advice… and they were to go on again with the early sun on midsummer morning.
-The Hobbit, A Short Rest