Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
A Cup Of Kindness
Earlier this month the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel hosted the Between The Worlds Conference in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a tremendous amount of hard work on the part of many and was successful in all the ways that we had hoped. I am thankful and grateful for all those things that were planned and achieved, but I'm particularly grateful for something that was not planned but simply emerged from our stay at the hotel. Literally dozens of the staff members of the hotel thanked me and the other organizers for the kindness of our attendees. The staff was personable, professional, and cooperative with all our requests. All the conference organizers made an effort to thank the staff and several of us have written letters thanking individual staff members. And I will repeat it again, the staff went out of the way to say what a wonderful group we were. These words were not simply the words of courtesy offered as a matter of good business practice.
As a piece of background information, I should explain that the DoubleTree in downtown Wilmington is in the legal district and primarily caters to lawyers and bankers and various corporate sorts that are there on business. Staff turnover in the hotel industry is swift, so very few people were still working at the hotel that remembered us from our previous conferences because it is not an annual event. Those that did remember us had vouched to the rest of the staff that we were a good group. They had of course been warned that we were a wee bit eccentric but good people.
They say that the hotel industry is a hospitality industry, so while we were there we abided by the rules of hospitality. I can’t say every attendee to the last behaved this way, but I will attest that the majority gave kindness for kindness. The staff were treated as our hosts rather than as the help. The very first day there was a situation that needed a remedy and it could have started us off on a bad footing but instead gained us goodwill with the staff. We found that in the largest ballroom where we would be having our main ritual for the conference they had put up a large Christmas tree and hung wreaths from all the sconces. I approached the manager and explained that we needed the room to be bare and that we would be more than willing to provide help in moving the decorations and the tree. I should let you know that when you organize an event at a hotel that you also provide them with a list of what is expected as the setup for each room for each day. We asked for a bare room. I also went on to say that it was a beautiful tree and the wreaths were lovely but that they would be visually distracting in the ritual. I explained that every object that was in the room for the ritual had a symbolic meaning. I also offered that we would help put them back when we were done. Her face went through a flight through several emotions and ended with a smile and relief. She then asked if we needed to have any other decorations taken down in the hotel. I said thank you for the offer but honestly we just needed that one room to be neutral everything else should stay as it was beautiful and had taken a lot of work. I got the distinct impression that she was expecting stressful words rather than a fair solution.
Over the course of the event most of us said thank you and please and we meant it. We were mostly patient with the inevitable problems of a large number of people moving through the bottlenecks inherent in hotels. We tipped well knowing that without tips you don't get a living wage. During the opening reception, the post-ritual snacks, and the Gala we picked up after ourselves and did not leave a big mess for the staff. We acted more like friends helping the hosts of the party. There was also an invisible kindness that the staff was not aware of. Twice every day we had members of our group go through the hotel and clear and reset the energy. If you have ever been to a hotel-based magickal conference, you know how thick the energy can get and the muggles are affected by it whether or not they know what it is.
Some of you may be asking yourself why is this a topic worthy of a blog post? I've been to quite a few pagan pride events and interfaith activities whose intentions included educating the public about paganism and improving how we are perceived by the community. I actually believe that the kindness and humanity that was offered to the staff of the Doubletree Hotel in Wilmington actually did as much or more than most of the pride or interfaith events I have attended. I cannot tell you how much I was heartened as we were leaving the hotel and the catering manager asked me if we would let her know when the New Alexandrian Library was having its opening so she could attend.
Almost all the traditions that I know have stories about visitors, strangers, beggars, and the like who come around to test our kindness and our hospitality. The punchline is usually that the visitor, the stranger, is actually a Goddess or God in disguise. I believe that there is a divine spark within each of us, so perhaps our kindness and our hospitality is being tested each day. May we do well.
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