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Talk given by Sara Acosta at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church on September 8.  

Carroll’s Kitchen is redefining hospitality in the restaurant industry … but not like you might think.

Yes, we serve the downtown Raleigh community with favorite sandwiches, salads, and sweet treats. We have five stars on Yelp and we rotate weekly specials. We employ a chef and a general manager and a trained kitchen staff.

But that’s not the kind of hospitality I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the kind of hospitality that welcomes the stranger.

That washes the feet of the person at your door.

That pours oil over your head worth a year’s pay.

The kind of hospitality that greets the woman at the well as the inherently worthy person she is.

Let’s look to Dutch priest Henri Nouwen for a more complete picture:

“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”

At Carroll’s Kitchen, hospitality means strangers become friends as we spend about a year together during a woman’s job training and life skills programming.

It means a woman now has a safe and dignified place to work through the traumas of homelessness - and all the grief that came before - in the comfort of her own room in our team home.

It means we’re learning how to work with each other (and sometimes working on ourselves) in the kitchen day in and day out, one kolache at a time.

We're a restaurant rethinking hospitality, because at one time or another, we're all the woman at the well.