When I am older and the kids are grown, I want to be hospitable. I want to welcome people, effortlessly, into my home even when it isn’t convenient. For instance, I won’t even be in town and I’ll open my home up to my kids’ friends and their families who need a place to stay during their travels. I’ll apologize for leaving only four types of ice cream in the freezer and for stocking my fridge only half-full of essentials. I know there will be growing boys staying in my house. Still, I will say, “Eat whatever looks good to you in the pantry.” And then, in the next breath, tell the adults, “Help yourself to the wine fridge.”
I am blessed to know a number of moms (and dads) for whom hospitality, such as this, is a gift. Their doors are always open and all manner of friends and family come and go. Without a second thought, they volunteer to host the team dinners and sleepovers. They host large family gatherings in a modest-sized home. You don’t have a place to go at Thanksgiving? Come, join us! And, they don’t think twice about letting you celebrate your son’s birthday in their home after your dog has been skunked and you, too, probably still reek a little bit. (True story.)
Don’t Overthink Hospitality
Oh, how I wish that could be me- that amenable, welcoming host. Truth be told, I don’t want to have to wait until the kids are grown to “entertain angels” in my life. And so I do invite people into my home. Still, I find it a challenge to be so hospitable. Not because I don’t want to or can’t welcome others, but because I allow myself to overthink the simple act of hospitality. I get too “Cogsworth” with not enough “Lumiere.” I worry about cleanliness. I obsess about the menu. I focus on my own kids’ ability to be generous. I dwell on adequate space, the unpredictable weather, and how the conversation will unfold. I fret too much about having everything “right.”
I want the best for my guest.
Even though I employ the help of my family I still can’t shake the burden of responsibility I bear when it comes to hosting. In turn, I set such high expectations that I often miss the point of even having people over. If I can just give myself a little perspective, perhaps I will realize that (most) guests do not need a whole lot. What do they require? I need to remind myself that both grown-ups and children, whether staying for a few hours or a few days, just want to know that they are welcome. They want to know that they matter. Most don’t want a fuss. They just want me. To visit. To listen. To be.
Hospitality is about Authenticity
This includes the ones who arrive unexpectedly, and the ones who are difficult to host.
Thus, hospitality is not extended by simply following the hosting guide in the latest publication. It is not created from a “Preparing for Guests” board on Pinterest. It is not achieved by trying to be someone whom I am not. Hospitality is about authenticity. It is presence. It’s being in the midst of family life and just being available to my guests. It’s okay if I haven’t showered. It’s okay if the kids are cranky. It’s okay if I’ve had a hard day. It’s okay that my house looks lived in. It’s okay to order take-out. It’s all OKAY.
As I enter the holiday season (a ripe time for hosting people!) it is easy to get overwhelmed. School, work, and religious calendars explode with projects, concerts, dinners, and deadlines. I am arranging travel and purchasing gifts, cleaning and decorating and preparing and baking– all in addition to my normal parenting duties. Yet, I will open up my home to guests and strive to better embody true and gracious hospitality.
Easier said than done.
And so, I will breathe and remind myself there is no gift like the precious present.
In his story of the same name, The Precious Present, Spencer Johnson reminds us that simply being who we are, just the way we are, right now, is precious. Whatever preparations I am able to make for my company will be enough.
Because I will be enough.