In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus, struggling to get home from Calypso’s island, is shipwrecked. Naked, destitute, looking for all the world like a vagabond, he is nonetheless welcomed by Alkinoos, king of the Phaiakians. Alkinoos and his people treat him like a king, take his story to heart, and transport him to his home Ithaka with a vast trove of gifts. That is, they treated him with hospitality.
These days we think of hospitality in much less grandiose terms. There’s hospitality hour after church: donuts, coffee, and small talk. We might offer hospitality as a meal or a night or two in our spare bedroom, but only for those we know—or relatives of those we know. For everyone else, there’s "the hospitality industry" to provide rooms, beds, and meals.
Thus Odysseus’ adventures and misadventures provide a whole new perspective on how we treat guests, even those who are strangers to us.
Prof. Adam Cooper is new to Wyoming Catholic College this year and is in the midst of teaching The Odyssey to our freshmen, drawing their attention to this major theme in the poem: hospitality.
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