Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Me Casa, Su Casa – Ridiculous

This Spanish language expression is found on doormats, plaques, bumper stickers and has entered our language as a popular way of expressing hospitality. The fact that it is in Spanish may reflect a cultural norm from its country of origin.

The Old Testament and Koran also in many places make it clear that strangers are to have their feet washed, be welcomed, fed and sheltered. Until recently Christian Churches were regarded as sacred sanctuaries from which persons could not be seized and arrested. That custom has ceased in recent years.

As a young parish priest I was always welcomed into parishioners home just be stopping by and ringing the doorbell. Now we are instructed not to be alone in someone’s home for fear of being accused of sexual harassment.

Dropping by unannounced was once a popular way for neighborhood people to be with each other. “Drop by any time” was always a welcoming expression and well meant.

We have one friend in the city who still says, “Drop by anytime,” and she means it. She adds, if I am free to invite you in or a while, I will. If I am busy, I’ll tell you so.” I do believe her but I have not availed myself of the privilege.

Since I live in a third floor walk-up flat in the heart of San Francisco. Neighbors never drop by and expect to be welcomed. The call first and make a date. Perhaps in suburban and more rural areas people do drop in regularly and informally. But not so in the city. Many apartment buildings are gated and codes are needed to ring the bell for entry. We are vulnerable for robberies and burglaries.

One time while I was rector of Trinity, a parishioner rang the doorbell at midnight and asked to come in spend the night. He was a drug abuser and alcoholic, and as usual a really sweet guy. He was quite drunk and under the influence. I made him wait on the porch while I called the police. They came and took him to a shelter, they said. Here I was his priest and rector, I turned him away. I had a choice, let him in and let him sleep it off. I chose to call the police for help and hope that he would find help and caring from resources that could help him with his basic problems

We are justifiably more wary. If we want to visit with people we make dates and appointments.

Perhaps younger people are more flexible and are will to have friends drop in and have them sleep over. Perhaps they are closer to the idea of me casa, su casa.

I must say that my house is not your house. I love to welcome people to our home, feed and entertain them. By that I mean and expect good conversation, sharing of ideas, concepts, gossip, our personal lives and even problems in an open and direct way. When you come to our home, I expect basic civility, give and take in conversation, not lectures or rants about your favorite new knowledge or jokes – well, one or two maybe.

I want it to be clear you are a guest in my home and behave accordingly.

If we had a larger flat, I would be happy to have you spend a day or two with us as a guest. In many ways I am glad our place is small as having people staying is disruptive to my rather routinized ways.

When my daughters and grandchildren come to San Francisco, we put them up in nearby lodgings and feed them all meals and take them about the city in our cars and let them drive ours. We are delighted always to have them.

Once in a while some family or friends have spent the night on the floor or the couch.

Our home is not your home. I understand the expression to be a sign of welcome and caring for other people and an invitation to our home. Taken literally, it means when you come the house it is yours – mortgage, rent, repairs, food, maintenance, cooking, cleaning, laundry, walking the dog - ad infinitum, reductio ad absurdum, and so on and so forth.

After all that believe it or not, you are indeed welcome to come visit our delightful home in San Francisco. If you like really good wine, bring it. Otherwise you are welcome to our mid-price range offering and a good meal.


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