Recently Peter and I were travelling and we dropped in to visit some people we don’t know very well. They had been away for a couple of days and only had half an hour’s notice of our arrival. It was interesting to see what the lady of the house did in that half hour to prepare for our quick visit. In amongst all the living that goes on in her house, she cleared the table, laid a small table cloth and had tea cups waiting for us. Not any ol’ tea cups but beautiful fine china tea cups, all in different shapes and designs – very beautiful.
As we sat there and got to know each other – over a few cups of tea – I was reminded that this was real hospitality. So often we put off sharing our time, energies, home, food, love with others simply because we don’t have time to make it perfect. We are too busy and our house work builds up, we don’t have time to cook a meal and we get tired.
But hospitality is about sharing our heart, not a perfect home, a perfect meal, or making it a perfect event. Hospitality is about sharing us.
Practical tips for Hospitality
Over the years I’ve worked on different things that have helped me be hospitable regardless of my circumstances.
- Settle in my heart that hospitality is different than entertaining. Entertaining is what we see in magazines and movies. Entertaining is about putting on a show, impressing people, being stylish. Hospitality is just about being me, and loving other people.
- Have my own top 5 menus. These are dishes that I know I can put together quickly, cheaply and some of them, with the ingredients I usually have in my pantry. Over the years these have changed as our family has changed but I always know a meal I can put together quickly (Download my current top 5 quick meals to share with others)
- Clean the house on Friday, ready for family time on the weekend (rather than on Monday, where we recover from family time). My main motivator to clean my house on Friday is so the family can relax and enjoy time together. It is then easy to add other people to our weekend plans. (LINK)
- Let others help with the food. If they offer, most times I say ‘yes, thank you’ but sometimes I actually ask with the invite – be upfront and do dinner together.
- Know what makes you relax. For me, knowing my floor is swept is the one thing that makes me sit and relax with others, so this gets my first attention if I have the opportunity (but sometimes it doesn’t happen – there have been times I have even encouraged my visitors to keep their shoes on!!)
Don’t make Hospitality about the House
There are many ways that we can share our life with other people we need to be creative and resourceful.
- Food seems to be the thing that helps a social connection. But it doesn’t always need to be a main meal; breakfast or lunch, or morning and afternoon tea times are all fun times to get together with others – maybe even have dessert with friends or neighbours after the kids go to bed!
- We can also invite others to join us in a public place, so it doesn’t always have to be in our home; getting out in nature is another thing that seems to help connect people, so to share a meal outdoors is a lot of fun.
- Doing something like going for a hike, or playing backyard cricket in the park, or playing board games can also provide a great backdrop to sharing time together.
Being hospitable does not need to be a whole family activity. I like to catch up with my friends, one on one and of course, as my children are now older I can do this more easily. But even when the kids where little I would take them with me, and expect them to play quietly while I visited with my friends. I remember explaining this to them one day, because they particularly loved one of my friends dearly too. We had a little pact going – they would get 10 minutes with their Aunty-BeeBee and then they’d leave her to me. This was a part of my children recognizing that I too was a person, and that I too had friends, and that they weren’t the center of everyone’s world!
Make Hospitality a Family Trait
Being hospitable is one of the important traits we want to pass onto our kids. Another blessing while we were away was to hear how our kids were hospitable in our absence. It really does lift your heart when you see your children carrying the same passions and purpose as you do.
We can intentionally teach our kids to be hospitable:
- Firstly, be hospitable yourself. This means get your heart ready to share – don’t go through the motions. When your husband brings someone home, honestly be prepared to share your time, home, and food with them. Your children will see you give yourself to others, or they will see you grumbling and being stingy.
- Get them involved even for a little bit. My kids have always been a part of the cleanup team – if we have the time, then things get picked up, floor, kitchen and bathroom get checked. If we have time! As they have become more able in the kitchen they help there too. The other day we packed for a picnic with some friends where we took enough food for the both families. It took us a half hour to prepare because I had three sets of hands in the kitchen, and the two boys packed the car.
- Encourage them to be hospitable towards their friends. Teach them how to be a good host, and how to be a good guest. Play-dates where special times, not because they didn’t happen all the time, but because it was an opportunity to make your friend feel special.
- Teach your kids how to receive (and maybe learn this yourself as well!) We can be so intent on teaching our kids how to give, that we forget to teach them to graciously accept when someone is being hospitable towards them.
In summarising my thoughts on hospitality I have forgotten one important aspect – be hospitable towards our family. If being hospitable is cheerfully sharing food, shelter and friendship with others* then our family should be the recipients of our hospitality all the time. Just as tiredness and busyness stop our interactions with other people it is easy to let these things affect our interactions with our family. Some years back I was challenged about how I dealt with the family evening meal – I compared how I approached a meal with friends, and how I approached a meal with my family.
- for guests I was prepared, for family I often ‘winged’it
- for guests I was calm, for family I was often rushed
- for guests I chose delicious food, for family I chose practical food
- for guests I delighted in conversation, for family I had a time limit
Now, of course some of this is just family life, but some of it, some of the time was a habit I grew into where I lost the value of sharing a meal together with my family. I lost the joy of opening my heart and instead just fed everyone. We still have some meals that are like that – over and done with quickly – but on the most part the evening meal is a highlight of our day where we come together and can enjoy food, time, and friendship.
Remember, hospitality is about the heart – not the home. You can share life with others wherever you are – if you have it in your heart.
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