Walking through the door felt like walking into Wonderland. The walls appeared to have been constructed from books, stacked, poked and jammed into every conceivable crevice … from floor to ceiling, over doorways, under windows and up and under stairways.
George said, “I created this book store like a man would write a novel, building each room like a chapter. I like people to open the door the way they would open a book, a book that leads into a magical world in their imagination” … and that’s exactly how I felt on that cold February day as I stepped through the door.
When in his twenties, George had walked and hitchhiked from one side of the USA to the other and through Mexico. He fell ill in an isolated part of the Yucatan and was nursed back to health by a tribe of Mayans. The generosity he encountered on his travels had a profound effect on him and inspired his philosophy of hospitality.
I discovered that George opened his heart, his shop and his life to aspiring writers asking only that they help in the shop for two hours each day and read a book a day in exchange for free accommodation. Over 30,000 people have stayed in the shop since it opened in 1951. They’ve slept among the shelves and piles of books on small beds that doubled as benches during the day. He called them Tumbleweeds, because they drifted in and out with the winds of chance. The shop was also his home so he chose to be vulnerable in inviting anyone in.
It's easy to show hospitality to those we know and love, it takes courage and vulnerability to open our doors and lives to the stranger.
In essence we are all strangers to those we don’t yet know.
Hebrews 13:1-3 encourages us to “Love one another as brothers and sisters, do not to forget to show hospitality to strangers … to remember prisoners as if we were in prison with them, and those who are mistreated as if you yourself are suffering".