Friday, January 11, 2013

A House Re-Purposed for Hospitality

A House Re-Purposed for Hospitality
On the first day of my journey heading toward the Abbey of Gethsemane after eating dinner with Nevan, I stayed at a bed and breakfast, Tucker House, located in the Louisville Metroplex. I took advantage of the "Traveler's Special" which made the stay more expensive than a night at a Motel 6, but a lot less expensive than a night at a Holiday Inn Express. Since I had my fill of sketchy hotels during the research period of my dissertation (Example: I stayed in a Howard Johnsons in Dallas where apparently someone was shot in a drug deal gone bad, a fact I learned in a newspaper the day after I checked out), I opted for the Tucker House.

If you are in the Louisville area I couldn't recommend the place any higher. It's very nice and clean. The house is decorated to the period it was built (the antebellum south). The breakfast, which was made by the proprietors, Devona and Steve Porter, was killer... absolutely fantastic. And it was nice and quiet. Will definitely take Aimee there someday.

I had the opportunity to interact with Devona during breakfast. They serve the meal in what I can only describe is a large Sitting Room framed with large windows overlooking their property equipped with a dining room table. It's adjacent to the kitchen and you can see the person cooking at the stove through a serving window. As Devona made my veggie omelet, cherry-nut scones, and gourmet bacon (told you the breakfast was killer.... they also served a grapefruit which was halved, sectioned, the top coated with turbinato sugar, and warmed on high under a broiler for five minutes.... sprinkle a few blueberry on the top and give it a try) she told me a little bit of history of the house. Apparently original owners who built the home, the Turners, were slave owners, and the wife, Nancy Jane Turner, was known to be a brutal master. 

To be honest, that bit of information creeped me out, and truth be told would have deterred me from staying in that building had I known it in advance of booking. As a Christian I don't believe in karma (the concept of which, as I understand it, in Hindu culture is more about the supernatural measure of a life as opposed to the "what goes around, comes around") but if there was such a thing, a place with a brutal slave owner I'd think would be thick with bad vibes. 

But upon further review, a couple of things occurred to me. First, the Porters, given their understanding of the home's history, make sure people of all cultures and races are made to feel welcome (and in fact all different types and kinds of folks have stayed in that home under their care and watch). Since they purposed the home to provide hospitality, that's what it does now (and they do it very well). The history of the place, which is pretty sinister, isn't determining it's future. The current owners, after much painstaking and extensive restoration, have restored the structure to it's former glory, but have redeemed its purpose. In a place which was oppressive, now there is a welcome for everyone. There's a good sermon in there somewhere.

And the other reflection I might share is that while Tucker House is now living out as a "second act", so too are it's owners. Devona talked about how one day while working in a marketing company in a job she hated, one day she just snapped and without provocation indicated to her boss that she was quitting. A month later, after wrapping up her work and handing off her assignments, she was unemployed, wondering about her future. At the time recently remarried, Steve asked her if she could do anything professionally what would it be, and she answered, "Own and operate a bed and breakfast". Now she's living the dream. 

Of course I'm sure it's not all roses and cream as a B&B operator. They might occasionally, for example, get a boarder who when asked if it's OK for breakfast to be served at 8am, will look at them like they have three heads (I'm on retreat, man) or drink all the diet ginger ale in in their hospitality fridge. But at least the new problems that are now hers are different than the old problems she could no longer carry. That, and she carries them with someone else whom she loves and loves her back. For Devona, I think there is a grace manifested in the reality of her life each and every day just by waking up. 

And so it should be for all of us.