"Hospitality may be a familiar, old-fashioned virtue, but it hasn't yet gone out of style. In our homes and communities, schools and churches, families and neighborhoods, hospitality remains the glorious centerpiece of the human dinner table. It's the flag we rally around to remind ourselves that we're all in this together. It's the sturdy thread that binds us gently to each other.

"The value and usefulness of hospitality is more apparent than ever. In our fast-paced, ever-mobile society, intimacy is often suppressed by isolation and loneliness. Widening social and economic gaps foster hunger, homelessness, violence, and fear. Airplanes, cell phones, and e-mail may keep us in touch twenty-four/seven, but we still seek that elusive sense of belonging that makes us feel curiously, joyously, at home.

"Admittedly, hospitality won't cure all of our ills. It won't erase underlying problems that promote a climate of division or create a magical panacea for human suffering. But hospitality can help. It can assist and guide us in the way we deal with and ultimately solve our problems. It can allow us to function with grace and dignity.

"In our global community, hospitality has become a vital, booming industry. The business side of it makes the world run more smoothly and efficiently, promoting greater productivity and offering choices we might not otherwise have. But lavish hotels, professional catering services, and exclusive vacation packages don't lessen our yearning for the homegrown version. They're welcome, but often short-term fixes that can distract us from our spiritual center and leave us feeling empty. In fact, the proliferation of such commercial outlets for hospitality only makes this basic element of spirituality even more meaningful and attractive.

"Hospitality is the social staff of life, a starting point for discourse and interaction. Even when we're not conscious of its presence, hospitality stands by like a gracious host, discreetly ensuring friendly exchanges and peaceful outcomes. It's background music to the human dance, an old song that still rings true."