After a sojourn from blogging forced upon me by the pains caused to Dominic by his 5 new, stubborn teeth, forty pages of Matt's academic prose needing my "artistic" and critical eye, and the sluggard effect of the January doldrums upon my creative juices, I have mustered up all my powers to finish a brief post that I started about a week ago on hospitality.
The art of hospitality simply cannot be underestimated. The best way to learn it is to observe others in their element. I am extremely fortunate to have grown up with very hospitable parents. Almost every night we had at least one extra guest to dinner and for several years while I was growing up we had one or more live-in guests, either exchange students or someone in need of a place to stay for a while. Sundays were special days where we invited an entire family over for a scrumptious dinner and lively games after church.
Their hospitality was never super fancy, our house was rarely immaculate (though always "clean"), and dinner never consisted of filet mignon marinated in bourbon, and yet, it was the perfect form of hospitality for our guests. Our house was comfortable and guests always felt at ease. I remember hearing my friends frequently say to me how much they liked coming over because they felt so welcome. They knew that coming over meant a peaceful house, good food, and lively company. My parents made it a point to have an open house and to welcome everyone--whether by invitation or not. This is truly Christian hospitality.
During a recent visit to Connecticut to visit my brother-in-law, Stephen and his wife Sarah, I found myself prompted by their welcoming home into contemplation about the nature of hospitality. What ingredients are really necessary? I came up with a short list: a clean, fairly uncluttered space, tasty--not necessarily fancy--food, a place to repose, a gracious host who anticipates your need, and a real invitation to make yourself at home. This all can be summed up in saying, making a person feel comfortable and welcome.
I thought most about the first ingredient: a clean, uncluttered space. It is really quite paradoxical. Contrary to the innate domestic "scouring urge" most women (including me) have at the prospect of visitors, in truth, I find that if a dinner party is overly prepared looking and the house is absolutely immaculate, it discourages me from really "settling in", like I need to stay on my best behavior to fit in with my surroundings. This isn't to say the house should be dirty, cluttered, or aesthetically unpleasing. No, no, a house should look welcoming without distracting either by looking unkempt or pristine. You want it to simply be inviting.
Stephen and Sarah, thank you for your hospitality. We will come again. :) (If you want us, that is).