I am a guest tonight

When are you going to actually start? I have often been confronted with this question in regards to Josefa, as have others among us…

The arrival of the little person we have all been is preceded by the desires, hopes, dreams, plans, forecasts, prayers, choices, decisions, fights and expectations of those waiting for us to arrive (Advent). Is a bond purely abstract simply because it does not yet exist? Who would dare say that? With what kind of yardstick do we measure beginnings?

So it is for Josefa. Thanks be to those who, through their work and their faith, have made Josefa House what it is today.

A palpable present during convivial, artistic, confessional and cultural events, which give us a chance to meet each other at the heart of our migrations.

An even more intimately palpable present, every Monday evening when the residents of Josefa House gather together to share a meal.

I attended one of those gatherings recently. Oh, I know this house well, having lived there for more than ten years. It still feels like "home": the noises, the smells, the floors, the subdued lighting, the garden, the chapel, everything is so familiar to me. And yet, something has changed. I am a guest tonight. And the faces are less familiar to me. A language barrier, cultural differences, soul-searching questions and cautious glances towards this external sign of an obedience coming from elsewhere. The word circulates, however, verbally and non-verbally, through the magic of mediations that are subtly improvised. At the end of the meal, a child emerges, a resident's cousin, on his phosphorescent electric skateboard. It causes the assembly to move to the terrace and brings me closer to the one who seemed quiet, introverted, with a reserve accentuated by the chador she is wearing; yet I feel drawn to introduce myself. We hesitatingly exchange a few words and realise that we both have some knowledge in common about her native country. The meal comes to an end. Most people are getting ready to leave, but something holds us both. And then comes the invitation: "Come home to have tea," she says. Both “homes” are clashing, but there arises in me a feeling of gratitude, a deep joy, that of being a guest at home. An unforgettable experience of hospitality. A beautiful encounter.