I have a confession to make.
I grew up in Mississippi, attended cotillion, and am well-trained in southern hospitality. But, I don’t feel like I am very good at following all those rules. Maybe I am intentionally bucking the system and seeking something a little more real.
My husband and I are happiest when our house is full of people. We love inviting friends over for dinner, college students for game nights, or play dates with lots of little ones. Motherhood has changed what hosting people looks like, but it is still one of my favorite things to do.
Doing life with others has become a key phrase in our house.
Our family has also hosted two high school foreign exchange students from completely different parts of the world. As we prepared to welcome these students I scoured the internet for ways to make our student feel welcome, avoid cultural faux pas, and love them well despite a language barrier. Being a host family challenged my idea of authentic hospitality. There were days I was far from feeling welcoming and loving. However, there is no way to measure how much that experience has grown and shaped our family.
Here are some tips for authentic hospitality:
- Love others well. Nothing will be authentic if not done in love.
- Be transparent. People tend to feel most loved when they are trusted.
- Share food. It has been said that the way to someone’s heart is through their stomachs. I have several friends who go above and beyond in this! Every time we are together, food is offered, with no exceptions. (My toddler once busted me for hiding the fancy coffee when a group of college students came over. Lesson learned.)
- Be a cheerful giver and receiver. When you give cheerfully of yourself, your time, and your possessions (or fancy coffee) you communicate genuine care for others. Sometimes is it hard for a natural giver to receive hospitality, but doing so benefits both parties.
- Embrace the messiness. I prefer things to be clean and in their place. However, in order to show authentic hospitality, I have learned that if I am so busy serving and cleaning that I am not in the moment with my guests, that sends the wrong message. And, you may have to embrace a different kind of messiness when opening your heart and homes to others – the emotional kind from which we tend to duck and hide.
There are many other ways to make people feel welcome, I am sure. Authentic hospitality does more than just make people feel welcome. This is the kind of hospitality that meets someone wherever they are and lets them know they matter and that they are important. What I desire to communicate to every person I have the chance to interact with is that they matter. I hope to see other mothers band together to fight for authentic hospitality in their communities.
The best place to start when striving towards authentic hospitality is to think of others more highly than you think of yourselves. When we begin to shift our focus from ourselves to others, hospitality is not a list of rules or expectations, but instead a whole-life experience.