June 22, 2010- Hospitality Demonstration

Kate Murr

At scrabble the night before Michael insisted that, “anarchists use the scrabble dictionary too,” which pretty much sums up our visit at the Emmaus House, a restored historic Victorian-style residence that provides free food and lodging to folks visiting loved ones at local institutions, mainly prisions. The ideals of providing service, building community, and participating in active nonviolence (and the idea that these things are just the right thing to do—like using the scrabble dictionary—regardless of institutional directives) are personal tenants of Michael’s. They are diligently, yet comfortably, accessible for guests through the Emmaus House art, board games, refrigerator magnets, and gentle hospitality.

The women and children who stay at the Emmaus house typically travel and do not have resources to pay for a hotel room. They may be visiting loved ones in any of the four prisons in the Yankton area, one of which really caught my attention because before its transition to a federal prison camp in 1986 it was a liberal arts college. The facility is completely service-oriented and sustained by Michael and others who give of their time and resources in the spirit of community: in other words, it isn’t a not-for-profit organization or a business, but a volunteer organization. None of the volunteers are paid, and they describe themselves as “…just some folks trying to live out our faith”.

Michael works tirelessly to provide clean rooms and meals for free. He lives in a room off the kitchen where guests gather to eat and wash dishes, an activity that often plants the seeds of community between guests. He says his wife, Beth, who is a nurse that was away on business when we visited, brings home the cash that makes their service possible. He tells stories about leaving his home in Indiana at an early age, encountering positive mentors through the Catholic Worker movement, and devoting his life to active nonviolence and promotion of peace. He tells of his incarceration for civil disobedience and the rewarding experience of disarming hostility. These days this primarily includes watching Emmaus House guests begin to melt into support of one another and learn from each other in the quiet house. Beneath vaulted ceilings and among houseplants, with the aroma of home cooked meals and dryer sheets meeting the needs of safety and comfort, much more is generously and humbly, offered at the Emmaus House, where a depth of service contributes to the sincere hospitality we had the pleasure to experience.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Emmaus House or supporting this ministry, please contact Michael at PO Box 353 Yakton, SD 57078 or by phone at 605-664-3662.

Here are my notes for the rest of this day:

Breakfast at Emmaus house
Yankton bike shop (Ace Hardware & bike shop)
A dip in the lake
Biking to Springfield, SD
Libby’s Steakhouse and Spiderman III
Camp set up
Rescue from storm by Tim, the guy at the gas station
Evening with Tim and Sandy
Constant lightning

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