The Heart of Hospitality
By Phil Stone, Chief Operating Officer
EXCERPT FROM THE ONSITE JOURNAL VOLUME II
The Heart of Hospitality
The Power and Intentionality Behind Onsite’s Healing Hospitality
“True hospitality is welcoming the stranger on her own terms. This kind of hospitality can only be offered by those who’ve found the center of their lives in their own hearts.”
– HE N R I N O U W E N
At Onsite, we describe the essence of our online and in-person guest experiences with the phrase “Healing Hospitality.” This idea is rooted in our values and serves as a guiding principle for the service created by our staff in every corner of the organization.
So what is hospitality, and how does it heal?
When we think of hospitality, I would guess that most of us would associate it with the service in places like hotels and resorts, restaurants, and entertainment venues that we’ve visited. We remember the handful of experiences when we were met with warm, friendly, and perhaps even thoughtful and engaging service. That type of service is rare, and we often remember these experiences more because they stand out.
In our homes, we often associate the idea of hospitality with “entertaining.” When entertaining, we desire to be “hospitable” and pull off a great party for our friends and acquaintances. It’s about creating a memorable experience of food, drink, and conversation. These times can be lively, fun, or even restorative and foster memories among the people we love.
“Hospitality that heals” however, is different. It invites us to a deeper level of connection that I believe we all truly desire. It touches our longing to be truly seen and heard and creates a space for belonging that connects us to others. To paraphrase Henri Nouwen, hospitality is welcoming and receiving the stranger with a space to connect and be known—and an invitation to become a friend.
We humans are infinitely complex. Our internal worlds are an expansive territory that extends far beyond what is typically known to others, and sometimes beyond what is even known to ourselves. Much like the proverbial iceberg, the vast majority of the “us” exists below our surface. Hospitality creates a safe space for greater depth in our relationships and for vulnerability. And therein lies its healing power. Healing hospitality exists within the space we hold between us. This space creates the opportunity to be seen more clearly, to connect more deeply, and to more fully experience our true belonging.
In my role as Chief Operating Officer, I have the privilege of working closely with the amazing people who bring this idea of “healing hospitality” to life every day. The way they’re able to create an experience that supports and nurtures our guests on their healing journey is truly inspiring to me.. I’d like to share four aspects of creating this unique brand of hospitality that I’ve learned from our work together: Posture, Place, Practice, and Presence.
Healing hospitality begins with the heart, not with the setting or place. For sure, the physical aspects of a space matter a great deal. However, without a heart that is open to receive and welcome others with authenticity and warmth, even the most beautiful of spaces can feel cold and distant. An open heart infuses the work of hospitality with intention. An open heart can spark creativity and imagination and lead us to discover new ways to communicate to others they are seen and heard.
Our Hospitality Team exemplifies the open-hearted posture from which the healing of Onsite flows.
The Hospitality Team creates clean, safe, and welcoming spaces with the comfort of a home and the thoughtful touches of care that nurture people in their journeys of healing.
“Place” supports hospitality by curating its setting. The campuses that host our in-person offerings are purposely nestled within the
backdrop of nature. Spending time in nature shifts our physiology. It has the potential to settle our nervous systems and allow us space to breathe more deeply. Right now as I write this from one of our porches here on our Tennessee campus, I’m experiencing that same thing: I feel refreshed by the cool, crisp autumn air and the scent of fallen leaves.
Experiencing the beauty of nature reminds us of the beauty that we have within. Over the years we’ve continued to invest in curating nurturing and safe spaces for people to gather. Spaces that communicate the worth and value of each person who makes Onsite a part of their healing journey and that create the opportunity for authentic connection.
Our Operations and Maintenance Team is responsible for the places where healing happens at Onsite.
The Operations and Maintenance Team creates and maintains all the physical settings to protect, nurture, and inspire people on their healing journey.
Hospitality is a practice, not an exercise in perfection. It’s something that requires focus and intentionality. Hospitality at Onsite is a team sport and includes a healthy dose of what Disney calls “practical magic.” Practical magic is the behind-the-scenes coordinated movements that enable the entire Onsite community to create the most impactful experience of transformation for every guest, every time. We believe details matter and that everything has the potential to communicate care to our guests, to meet their needs physiologically, emotionally, and even spiritually. We value honest feedback from our guests and seek it out in order to grow in our practice of hospitality.
Our Programming team is in constant pursuit of mastering the practice of hospitality.
The Programming Team coordinates the detailed movement of people, places, and things to enable a transformational client and guest experience.
Hospitality is experienced in the life-on-life moments. Presence is the alchemy of confidence, engagement, clarity, and attentiveness created when posture, place, and practice come together. Every day on our campuses, there are thousands of these moments. These moments happen around the table in the dining room, around the circle in group rooms, over chats in chairs on patios, during walks
through trees and grasses, and in cabins among roommates. It’s in the eyes of our servers that greet you with a smile as a plate of nourishing, beautiful food prepared with you in mind is gently placed in your hands. Presence is the moment that we feel truly seen and heard, the moment we feel valued and that we belong. Presence creates positive shift. And the thousands of moments of presence occurring across campus each day build momentum for us in the journey.
Our Culinary Team tirelessly shows up to create moments of presence in the midst of healing.
The Culinary Team sets the table for connection through memorable meals and hospitality that nourishes the body and soul of our community on their journey of healing.
Hospitality that heals flows from the heart of a community.
At Onsite, we want every guest to experience transformation on their journey of healing, and for many people, they find themselves “coming home” for the first time. The practice of hospitality has the same power to create connection and belonging around any table. From the dining room to the board room to the Zoom room, it heals.
The beautiful thing about hospitality that heals is that this power already exists within each of us.
What might happen if you began to practice hospitality around every table you found yourself seated at today?
How might this simple act of “welcoming and receiving the stranger” begin to transform your relationships at home, at work, and perhaps even within your own heart? We all have parts about ourselves that we don’t like that need our attention, right? Healing hospitality is transformative. It has the power to enable each of us to lean into better versions of ourselves by making a positive shift in the people around us.
May the four aspects of posture, place, practice, and presence inspire you to bring the beautiful gifts of hospitality to the people in your life.