Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it – Hebrews 13:2

In the sector of international development and humanitarian aid we (rightly) have to focus a lot on statistics, monitoring, evaluation and impact. We throw around a lot of jargon, and I am as guilty of this as the next guy or girl! Words like ‘sustainable’ and ‘capacity’ fall out of our mouths and we prescribe solutions to the world’s problems with clever graphs and matrixes.

The problem is that humanity and humanity’s problems are not easily summed up in black and white tables. We love to categorise and yet some of the most important stuff comes without neat labels.

I have had a few reasons lately to reflect on some of the big questions – What does it mean to be Human? Does what we do really make a difference? Is this career I follow actually worthwhile?

I stripped it back and started thinking about the moments when I have travelled that have really meant something. And I have come to the conclusion that the stuff that builds connection and makes us human has so little to do with categories, statistics or charting progress. It is less tangible than that but also far simpler.

Strip away all the language and it really does just boil down to one thing – how do we love each other?

I thought I would write a list of just some of the occasions I have had the privilege of being at the receiving end of love and hospitality – the kind that changes lives.

– When one of the materially poorest families I have ever met in Ethiopia offered me the last of their bread and honey for lunch. I felt rich.

– When I was greeted in the blackened fields of Jharkhand in India with generous smiles and energetic dancing.

– When Rohingya refugees, tired and traumatised from their experiences, felt brave enough to gift me with their stories.

– When farmers in Malawi gave up a morning to patiently show me and my colleagues how they are adapting to a new climate.

How is it that often the ‘poorest’ in the world are so much better at gifting hospitality to strangers? How is it that showing love comes easier to those who deserve to see a lot more of it themselves?

I am not sure today’s ramblings offer many answers. But I do know that most of the times I have witnessed love in action lately it has not been me doing the ‘serving’. And that is a challenge to me. It is essential in this ‘aid industry’ we do things professionally but let us not forget to serve one another.