We often hear of hosts around the world who have welcomed strangers into their homes and shared breathtaking stories, those who have learned of cultural differences and even formed lifelong friendships.

Every once in a while, we hear stories about how these friendships transform over time, about hosts who have gone well above and beyond what anyone would expect of a new friend. Meet Ann, who provided comfort as she helped a guest battle illness, a true example of a host who makes people from everywhere feel like they can belong anywhere.

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Her amazing story begins with her very first guests, John and Cathy. In John’s words, “There was something about Ann that was hard to shake, an unbridled enthusiasm for hospitality that could not go unnoticed.” The young couple came to Canada from Ireland for an extended vacation, but with intent to stay with Ann for a only short portion of their trip. After cordial introductions, Ann graciously provided her number and told them to contact her if they needed anything at all.

A while later, Cathy called Ann and told her John was sick. A mild form of bronchitis, she had said, a diagnosis far from accurate it turned out. After John’s condition deteriorated, he was admitted into the nearby hospital. Cathy moved back in with Ann while John was being treated.

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Listed as critical, the doctors recommended John’s parents fly out immediately. So they did and were in turn welcomed as family into Ann’s home. For two weeks, Ann shared her home and provided comfort where and when possible. After John was released, he, too, went back to Ann’s home. “Ann had come to prove herself as one of the most compassionate and empathetic people I knew,” he said. “And remember, just weeks earlier, Ann was a total stranger.”

Comforted by his recovery, John’s parents returned home to Ireland. John, too weak to fly, stayed with Ann a while longer. A few days before Christmas, Ann escorted the relieved couple to the airport, where they departed for home. John said, “My gratitude to Ann is near infinite, to owe someone your life is quite a thing. What payment would ever suffice? On asking Ann, she simply told me to pay it forward.”

As Ann put it, “The situation was very serious and frightening but at the same time beautiful in what it brought out in each of us. People from across the world and from two very different cultures. Hosting has added more to my life and been something I so enjoy doing.”

Turns out, a Christmas miracle can come down to the simple nature of personal hospitality.