The Frugal Catholic: “The New Good Samaritan–CouchSurfing” by Martha Wild King–October 2014

In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus clarified our neighbors. Our Lord told of a man beaten by robbers, leaving him half dead. A priest and Levite passed by, but a Samaritan (despised by Jews) bandaged the wounds, and brought the man to an inn paying for his care. Jesus asked, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor…? The lawyer {listening} said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise. ‘” NRSVCE     With that story, I give you CouchSurfing.

Couchsurfing was started in 1999 by a young man seeking lodging for an Icelandic trip. Fifteen years later, and now a for-profit organization, CouchSurfing International, Inc. is a hospitality exchange and social networking website which is completely free. Members can “surf” couches by staying as a guest in a host’s home, hosting travelers who want to stay in their home, or joining member organized social events. And in 2011, with one million active members, CS International was dubbed “the most popular free accommodation site.” And well it should be for the CouchSuring motto is “Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch at a Time.”

The first major concern is safety. For me, it started by becoming a verified member. The CouchSurfing verification process confirmed my identity and my address. So when “surfers” see our Profile Page, the green check mark next to our name adds one foremost step towards their safety.

The second step is reading references from the host and guest. When I receive requests for our couch (our guest room), I read references and preferences to intuit if it is a good fit. And CouchSurfing also gives eight safety basics. couchsurfing logo couchsurfing share your lifeJesus speaks of hospitality in Matthew 25. He says, … “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,….” Through CouchSurfing, our family has been able to extend that kind of hospitality to, at present, four complete strangers, who are now dear friends. couchsurfing is free Our first one-night guest, Shez from Australia, came to Bainbridge Island WA from Seattle by crewing a sail boat. It was fascinating to talk to her about her Muslim faith and home, and our dogs reminded her of her best dog-friend–Max Boy. Our next two-night visitor was Izzie, a young Mexican Christian woman from Walla Walla WA who wanted a brief vacation. As her first CouchSurfing event, she stated, “Your love and joy is contagious. I’m glad you’re in my life and that our friendship will not end.” On her second night, Izzie created an amazing Mexican meal, thus teaching me new culinary talents. Our third guests were Rocio and Soraya from Chili, female English teachers traveling and working in the United States and Canada. During their two-night stay, I encouraged them in their Catholic walk, and they in turn prepared a delicious Chilean apple strudel. Rocio states, “CouchSurfing has taught Soraya and me about life, friendship, and trust. Soraya added, “CouchSurfing is about traveling, and food too—everything outside your comfort zone. It will make me a better teacher for you see the bigger picture at the end of the day. She added, “Meeting people makes you change; you learn about things you never thought about. And when you travel, it is a good place to think about your life and what you can do to improve. CouchSurfing has helped me do that.”

Our fifth CouchSurfer, a young man from India, Shreekant, is coming in November.  He is going to teach me his hobby, juggling. So if you see me tossing and catching my purse contents after Mass, kindly ask me to stop. At least you will know I learned it outside of my comfort zone. And just as the Good Samaritan stretched himself to make the world better, we have the opportunity to do the same.