Over the holidays, we were able to take a couple days away with our team. We spent the time walking around the streets of downtown Tampa, learning about our city and its people, planning the year to come, and dreaming together. It was an important time for us as the Well, and from this retreat new ideas are forming into big things and small.
We have a vision for the new year and for the future of our city. It is big, and intimidating, and we learned a lot about the apathy and opposition we are up against. It's a challenge that we are hardly able to meet. But we're here, stepping up to the plate, and we're so proud of our team for it. Our vision for ourselves is small, focusing on all the little ways that we can honor and love our guests. We studied for-profit industry standards of hospitality as well as the Christian practice of welcoming the stranger. We dreamed about what it could look like and feel like to find an oasis of kindness in a sometimes unfriendly city.
Many of our sessions were held on sidewalks, beside bridges, and in parks around downtown Tampa, where a lot of our people can be found every day. We got to see and feel the beauty and the harshness of city life. We got to see the places where the poor are being driven to and away from. As we talked about the changes taking place in Tampa, many of which affect the poor, we looked around to see things from the perspective of those who are most vulnerable to those changes.
But the best part of the retreat was the end. After walking the streets all day, we sat down and we served dinner. It was the same setup, decorations, lighting, and everything else that we do each week for the Banquet. We got to experience what it feels like to come to this meal as guests who were tired, and hungry, and who could use the hospitality. And who served us this meal? A handful of our regular guests with smiles on their faces and hearts eager to serve. As soon as they came out and we saw who was putting on this meal for us, everybody got teary-eyed. You just don't even know.
There's something spiritual that happens when the roles become reversed and we get to receive love in a different way than we're used to. We get a lot from being part of the Well already, but to see it from another perspective, to see our guests as our hosts and ourselves as guests, that is a gift. It is in giving that we receive, and it's the kind of gift we don't know we need until we get it.
Thank you to Ben and Lam Robbins for putting together the details, structure, and logistics of this amazing time. Thank you to all of our supporters who gave so that we could put it all together. Thank you to our friends who welcome us into your lives every day, and who allow us to welcome you into ours.
We have a vision for 2014 of needs met, bridges built, and a city made whole. It's happening now, and we are so thankful to be a part of it.