Piece by Peace

It was just last week that I was making my daily commute to the Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center, taking the Cedar Avenue route. Since starting my job, I’ve found my ride to work is a perfect space to let all my thoughts marinate, tucked in my tiny metal shell on four wheels where all I can do is sit still. Trying hard to reflect on hospitality through acts of kindness for this week’s blog, a giant SUV suddenly came flying past my periphery, sunroof open, the driver sticking up the middle finger to everyone on the roadway. Finally losing sight of this reckless road warrior after the vehicle blew through a red light and dissipated into the prairie land ahead, I couldn’t help but feel the irony of the whole situation. I had been deliberately trying to place myself in a bubble of meditation, and within minutes, it was instantly popped by this fuming parader. This antagonistic street scuffle pinched a nerve, sending me down a mental rabbit hole of negativity. In fact, it took me so far away from what I had been trying to gently let simmer in my mind, that it caused my pot of meditative thoughts to burn. The revving engine’s echo followed me for a majority of the afternoon, making me lose the bandwidth for contemplating anything more about the goodness of humanity, at least for the rest of that day. Why would anyone do something like that? 

I’ll never know the answer to that particular encounter, but I think our society is currently facing a unique intersection of time and space. Seasonally, we are trudging through a tunnel of dark and sunless Midwest days. In Greek mythology, this was the time of year that Demeter, the goddess of agriculture literally “gave up on the world,” allowing it to wither and die while her daughter Persephone resided with Hades in the Underworld. It wasn’t until she was reunited with Persephone, (in the spring-summer months) that she blessed the earth with blooming flowers and fertile soil again. And especially here in Minnesota, after dealing with yet another heartbreaking Viking football season, the landscape does appear as if the gods have bailed on us. Winters are long and harsh, oftentimes resembling a giant ashtray. Most of us fall victim to a kind of Northern ennui; where energy levels are low, it’s harder to motivate, to stay warm, even just to stay positive.  

Overlapping with this climate, spatially we are also still waking up to a post-pandemic world, bearing fresh wounds from what COVID left behind. Nobody could have gone through quarantine unscathed, without experiencing some kind of loss, anxiety, or depression. Living through a global health crisis changed us. In some ways, it made us more selfish, dwelling in survival mode. It made us paranoid, angry, and sad. It also nurtured a faceless environment where it became easier to hide, and therefore humiliate, judge, and project our own discomfort onto others without being held accountable. The pandemic made us untrusting, lonely, and fearful, like everything was spinning out of orbit. 

It revealed to us so much of what we couldn’t control. But I beg to ask the question, what if we focused on what we could? Seasonally and socially we’re currently in a true trial period, prompting us to fill the voids and lift each other up, even when the gods have vacated the scene… 

This is the mindset and framework of hospitality—peering into how we can help, and what we CAN do. It’s keeping an eye out for one another, opening our arms, searching for the silver lining, wearing our good manners, learning how to pivot and flex, and always trying to put our best foot forward. 

Just by gestures alone, how different is the reaction when someone institutes a friendly wave, a perfect stranger says hello, asks how you are doing, or simply smiles in your direction compared to the actions of the reckless driver? These are the subtle acts—the tiny pieces that can welcome us back to a place of understanding and inclusivity. And by adopting these actions and making them a daily practice, we are paving little ways that open the doors for us to reconnect. That is the core of hospitality. 

A couple weeks from now, the angry speedster will become lost in the confines of my mind. But I can still remember sitting in a restaurant about three years ago, and the waiter telling me that while he couldn’t control anything that was happening outside of the dining room, as long as I was his customer, he would do his very best to ensure I was having a pleasurable experience. It was a beautiful principle to live by and share, and it struck me so hard that I still think about it to this day. That is the kind of mindfulness that creates those magical, endless echoes that get us through the hard stuff.    

Here at Mount Olivet, as our guests enter through the cathedral of pines and leave the buzzing world behind for a bit, we do our best to make sure that they are treated with that same mentality of care.  This retreat center strives to be a  ‘home away from home,’ where your mom’s kitchen cupboard is replicated as an entire wall of hanging coffee mugs to choose from, solace is found on the surrounding trails, and there is always an open seat for a plate of homemade comfort food and to hear the choir of birds out the windows. By creating and tending to this paused and relaxed, reflective and imaginative space, we hope to cast similar long-lasting impressions, giving people the kinds of memories that they can hold onto and re-enter well after their stay.  

Hospitality can take on so many different shapes and forms: it could be commenting on a shirt somebody’s wearing because you know the band that’s written across it, and you can spout out a couple of your favorite tracks. It’s slowing down to help someone merge onto a busy highway. It’s complimenting, checking on, and making eye-contact with people. Ultimately, all of these examples try to achieve what we are all craving at the end of the day: being seen and heard. Piece by peace, that is what gets us there. 

Residing in this season of resolution, when the earth is bare and stripped of color, we are tested more than ever to suppress the harsh and self-centered dispositions that govern our lives. But by trying to live by a code of empathy and servitude, we aren’t lost to a world that’s staring at another burnt pot.


Katie Meyer, Cook and Facilities Support, is a new addition to our staff who brings experience as a cook, kitchen manager, and author. 



  1. Karen Johnson says:

    Beautifully written, Katie, an inspiration with which we can readily identify! Thankyou!

  2. Francine Hicks says:

    This a beautiful piece and encompasses so much of ehat we went through in the pandemic and how we are emerging. As a social extrovert and self oroclained “hugger” the pandemic was devastating. In addition, my spouse was battling cancer through much of it ehich made the threat of infection even more severe. I have had to readjust to making social gatherings normal again. Slowly, I have started to become more at ease eith being in large public gatherings….and have embraced the happiness of hugging oeople once again.
    Thank you for sharing Katie.

  3. Betsy Thostenson says:

    This is an incredible piece!! Just what we need to hear during uncertain/tough times. Should be published in a magazine!

  4. Sandra Zakrzewski says:

    Indeed it should!!!!!!!

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