As some of the members of our writing group toured the SECU Family House on a recent Saturday, I thought of two words:  hospitality and reciprocity. The root for hospitality is shared by hospital, hospice, host, hotel, hostel and other words that indicate caring for another’s needs. An interesting sidenote is that hospitality’s root words can mean both host and guest; after all, you cannot have one without the other. That’s where reciprocity comes in.

CONSOLED WITH COMPANY: Kathy, Beth and Carol in the commons area where a donated piano, art and comfortable seating that leads to an outdoor patio can be a place for patient family members to find comfort in community or solace in comfortable surroundings.

Reciprocity is something that goes both ways or sometimes, something that is given because something has been received, a kind of pay-it-forward plan.

Since September 29, the hospital hospitality house in Winston-Salem, SECU Family House, has been accepting guests whose family members are undergoing treatment at either Forsyth Medical Center or Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and who live outside of Forsyth County. The years of planning, fund raising, negotiating and building have been led by one of the members of our group and her husband, Beth and Sandy Baldwin. They have been working on this house for almost as many years as our writing group has been meeting. It’s the ultimate hospitality: caring for those families outside Forsyth County who need a restful place to stay while their loved ones undergo treatment at local hospitals. And the reciprocity is that Beth and Sandy are giving back to our community in a way that honors and remembers their son Branner with whom they spent time in a hospitality house in Pittsburgh a few years ago as he had treatment for cancer. I think there may be many more levels of reciprocity in this project too.

HOSPITALITY MAGNIFIED: Dottye looks at art by Birgit, a former exchange student who is now family to her too. Birgit visited Dottye last fall and photographed micro and macro views of the area. Birgit donated both a book and several framed excerpts of the photography to the SECU Family House.

The house is full of life. It has warm touches, beautiful art, an enormous open communal kitchen, an inviting commons area with a donated piano, private bedrooms with baths (and the bathroom lights come on automatically when you enter, we discovered), a chapel, and best of all, a caring and active board, volunteers and staff. One of our members plans to coordinate and direct the educational component of the house, reaching both health caregivers and patient families.

We oohed and aahed as we walked beside Beth as she showed us the house. We loved seeing the results of the pay-it-forward legacy. We appreciated the hospitality and the reciprocity that nestled this 45-room home in our midst.

To learn more about the house, follow this link: http://www.familyhousews.org

~Kay Windsor

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