Hospitality—a humble primer by Robynn
A couple of weeks ago I received a kind email. A new friend at church had written honestly with some trepidation.
I was hoping to catch up with you on Sunday but got pulled into the nursery. I would love to chat with you sometime about small groups and see if you have any advice for me! We are starting a new group and we have never been in a leadership position before. You just seem like you would be so good at it. You are so warm, gracious, and humble and I am curious if you have any words of wisdom for us. We are so excited, yet a little nervous too! I hope you are all right, back in the swing of things, after the holidays. We are up and at it again too! Never a dull moment!
If you read my previous piece on Hospitality-A Recovered Gift you can imagine my surprise at this email from my new friend Chris. She had no idea of the hospitality angst, guilt and inadequacies I’ve battled these past seven and a half years. As baffling as that was, it was also comforting to know that these things that seem so glaringly obvious to me remain hidden to others. Perhaps I don’t seem as strange as I feel half the time.
Chris’ question was very specific. It got me thinking. It strikes me we do need a primer of sorts to re-establish the wonder and joy of community that happens in the welcome of hospitality. I sat down to think about how to offer hospitality, how to host a meeting, a group of friends, a gathering of hearts. I recalled some of the lessons I learned in Pakistan growing up surrounded by a people that are renowned for their hospitality. I’ve tried to remember what I learned in India, taught by Indians and fellow foreigners. I called to mind our years of leading team meetings in South Asia. I poked around some on the internet. I asked my friends on facebook for their suggestions. Their responses were overwhelming! Together, we’ve written the book on sincere simple hospitality! Because I didn’t want to lose any of these gems, I’ve divided it up over the next couple of days. Please add your suggestions and wisdom and experience to the comment section. We, all of us, have a lot to learn from one another.
- Hospitality according to Merriam Webster means, “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests; hospitable treatment. The activity of providing food, drinks, etc. for people who are the guests.”
- Be yourself and let your spouse be himself. There is warmth in your personality. Let that be the thing that welcomes your guests. Hospitality is not about (your) physical surroundings or what you are serving but about the attitude and atmosphere created by the host (FB: Diann).
- Respond to the people that show up. What do they need? True hospitality is being sensitive to what your guest needs at the moment they are in your home. Some need to be treated like royalty, some like family. Obviously this is easier one on one than one on twenty! (FB: Marcia). Give your guests everything you would want or need for a memorable night(s) away from your regular routine. Be helpful, be warm, be compassionate, be attentive (FB: Catherine). Stay people focused and LISTEN and LOOK (FB: Ruth).
- Whether one lives in a mud hut, government subsidized housing, or palatial palace, the practice of true hospitality is simply the genuine warmth of acceptance from one to another. Opening your hearth and home to others is giving the best of yourself to others. Let’s not confuse hospitality with entertainment (FB: Bettie)
- It is important to remember the difference between Hospitality and Entertaining. I don’t entertain. I’m not sure I even know what entertaining is but I suspect entertaining is more formal, more intended to impress. Entertainment is production based; hospitality is people based. Entertaining is offering a performance; hospitality is offering your heart (FB: Marilyn).
- This Pushtu proverb says it nicely, suggesting that true hospitality is available in even the humblest of homes: “Let it be only an onion, but let it be gven with love” (FB: Jonathan).
- Don’t stress about a clean house. You are the reason people are coming! This isn’t a realtor’s Open House. They aren’t coming so they could get a sneak peak inside your house! My friend Yesenia is on to something, More cleaning gets done in the five minutes before company arrives than all weekend long. And by cleaning, I mean putting stuff in closets and spraying Febreze. (FB: Yesenia) Dust: It’s what gives a home that warm fuzzy feeling. (FB: Susanne) Your guest can only be as comfortable in your house as you are with your house. (FB: Dan) Another friend, Anita, shared how her home was a comfortable place for teenagers to hang out, primarily because it wasn’t perfect, There is nothing wrong with a dirty or messy house as long as your pride does not keep you from welcoming others in. If you can’t bring yourself to invite a person at your door to come inside, clean you house, or better yet, WELCOME THEM INTO YOUR MESS. I have discovered through the years from our guests that they felt more welcome because the house wasn’t perfect and I sat down for a visit anyway. Another upside…my teenagers friends almost always wanted to hang out here; the kids later told me it was because they felt relaxed and comfortable, not worrying about everything being put back in its exact place (FB: Anita). Enjoy it, relax, if you feel stressed so will your guests; if your house has to be perfect, they won’t feel like they can stop by anytime (FB: Tressa).
- Welcoming others seems to be the heart of hospitality. Welcoming is accepting with pleasure the arrival of another. Hospitality means making others feel welcome, loved, and safe in your home (FB: Carolyn). I learned from a pastor’s wife that my home wasn’t really mine – it was God’s and He loves to share His home with others – I simply get the blessing of offering His home to others. Anytime I stopped in to see one of my Turkish friends – I am ALWAYS given something – tea, nuts, cookies – whatever they have – they might even leave me there and run out to the store to buy something to serve me – I always feel welcome. That’s a big part of it–helping others feel welcome (FB: Becky).
- Hospitality seems to be a condition of the heart. We move over. We “make room” (FB: Nancy). Many of my facebook friends commented on this: Hospitality is offering your heart (FB: Marilyn). Hospitality is having an open heart, an open door, an open fridge (FB: Amy). It’s an honest gift of heart, acceptance, and comfort (FB:Kendra). I’m always convicted that hospitality it is not just in our homes, it’s in our hearts wherever we are. Hospitality is a broken honest soul being open and available to another broken soul. That can happen anywhere (FB: Wendy)! I think Anne Voskamp hits the nail on the head – “Living radical isn’t about where you live — it’s about how you love.” (FB: Al)
- “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” ~Mother Teresa
- My friend Allison noted that the entire process should be loving, If the only part that is enjoyable is when the guests are in the house than the whole point is missed by (your children who’ve watched you plan and get ready). It should be a joyful time of preparation, not a stressful one. (Only then will the) attitude of hospitality be passed along to your children (FB: Allison).
- All through scripture we’re given demonstrations on how to treat the stranger among us. Having been a stranger most of my life I know that hospitality is one of the truest and warmest ways to include the outsider. Allowing/inviting ANYONE in, strangers as well as friends, and making sure they are comfortable (i.e. water and a drink and feeling welcome to share your world with you as well as share their world (FB: Colleen).
- I always make tea and coffee available — a drink station of sorts— hearts are melted over hot drinks. It’s a scientific fact! I love how my friend Julie elaborates on this. Long ago someone explained to me that the origins of hospitality came from Christian history. In early Christian Times, believers were encouraged to make pilgrimages to many holy places in the Middle East. Hospitalias were places where travelers could find care and rest. It’s the origins of hospitals where medical treatment could be given. So when hospitality is mentioned I like to think of it as opportunity to bring rest and perhaps healing to another soul. A cup of coffee and conversation goes a long way to bring a mend of sorts (FB: Julie)
- Hospitality is being available to listen to another’s soul. Do they need a cup of coffee or a glass of water to feel at peace, then offer those with joy. Sit, cook or play with their kids with them. Be present,that is the best thing you can offer (FB: Jenni).
- Hospitality certainly includes the ability to be interruptible and let go of control (FB: Ali). I think this might be the fear hiding behind the excuses we fabricate to not offer hospitality. It feels, and in many ways is, risky.
- However, there are blessings hidden in the shadows of hospitality. Be spontaneous. Keep your eye out for opportunities and go with it. Let people in. It blesses you, it blesses them and the memories from it go a long way (FB: Karis).
What would you add? And be sure to stay tuned for Part two on Monday!
6 thoughts on “Hospitality – A Humble Primer”
This warms my heart. Though I believe the gift of hospitality is one I embrace and am blessed by sharing, #11 convicted me deeply. I confess the hours before have not always been joyful when I was not getting help from others in the home. I would become stressed and grumpy which would vanish when I would sit among our guests and enjoy their presence. Thanks and looking forward to part 2.
You nailed it, Robynn.
My definition of a person with the “gift of hospitality” has always been this: A person who makes you feel as if you did them a favor by coming to their house… The hidden truth here: They really do believe that – it’s not a facade.
This is true, we do feel this and I know I am delighted when they say yes and then stay long and open up their lives to us.
I stayed a few months in Russia shortly after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The people in the city where I lodged were extremely hospitable. Hot tea was a must! If you had rye bread and butter, then serve. If you had white bread and jam (richer people) serve that, too. My humble gifts of small Bibles, packs of gum and candy, etc were greatly appreciated by even university professors as it was a cultural norm to give and receive gifts when forming new friendships. I learned a lot about hospitality from my Russian friends. Now that I have a new home once again in the US after living in Central America for nearly a decade, I want to cultivate hospitality here in this small cottage in Louisiana.