One of the greatest gifts we share with others is kindness. Throughout my years as a child and as an adult, hospitality has played a significant role in all the relationships in my life. As a little girl we hurried around on Saturday and Sunday preparing food for Sunday lunch. Although we did not know who would come, we anticipated that we would invite a first time visitor to church or someone who needed some extra love. Around our table now on Sunday as well as other days, we welcome our growing kids along with their friends. These shared meals offer more than satisfied hunger. Conversation builds friendships. Camaraderie solidifies trust. Commonness reinforces strength.
Hospitality expands past the togetherness surrounding a meal to the minuscule efforts extended by a generous heart in planned and unplanned moments. Think about ways in which you can offer hospitality. If you plan ahead just slightly, the joy of offering a warm reception to a neighbor, welcome to an expected opportunity to visit, or generosity to someone who suddenly needs a place to stay promises bubble up into a place of delight in your life. So, here are some ideas for establishing some habits of hospitality.
1. Start Immediately.
Make up your mind to prepare to be neighborly and open your home intentionally to family, friends and strangers. Begin by searching for times to invite someone in when your house is not perfect and you don’t anticipate a visit. Savor the idea of generosity toward others. Recall times where you have met a warm welcome. Be that for those God places in your path.
Once a friend found herself suddenly without a home. They were forced to move out suddenly overnight on an icey cold night. As morning came they were nearly frozen from the sleet and rain they endured over the night hours of moving furniture and possessions. This situation only reached my attention in the early morning. Unprepared, but willing, I invited them to stay in our home. What could I offer? My kindness. Clean beds. Warm food. Hot showers. Needed rest. Safe haven. Friendship. This story is not about me. It is about opportunity.
Once a neighbor called me anxious about fifteen international children that needed a place to stay for the weekend on short notice. Between us she figured we could house and feed them. She was right. We housed and fed those kiddos for four days. Even years later, memories of this weekend bring a smile to my face. One of my daughters remains so impacted by this encounter that she wants to adopt.
Ask God for eyes to see the needs already all around you.
2. Look for Opportunities.
Don’t outsource hospitality. Instead of family and friends going out to eat, invite them to your home. Keep the food simple so the focus is on togetherness. Gathering in a home usually extends the time and success of conversation. Ask everyone to bring something to create an easy meal. Look for an upcoming blog about freezer foods. Cooking in bulk frees you to invite guests without warning as well as share food with those facing unexpected tragedies.
Think about relationships that need to be deepened. Bond with groups that you do life with on a weekly basis. The invitations don’t have to always include a full meal. Gather for snacks or just dessert. It is more about being together than what you eat. Consider what you can offer and plan accordingly.
3. Keep food for surprises.
A simple bag of gourmet cookies put back or pitcher of lemonade whipped up quickly both offer a welcome when an unexpected guest stops by.
Bake or cook in bulk so extra food can be thawed quickly when needed. Since I was privileged to grow up with many Japanese friends, we mastered the habits of gift giving. In Hawaii, our Japanese friends often stopped for a short chat. Since they regularly arrived with a gift in hand, we practiced being prepared by baking sweet breads and putting them in the freezer. With these gifts ready for unexpected guests, we consistently presented our friends with tangible appreciation of their relationship.
Gift giving for me today includes my homemade bread, homemade jams, local honey, scripture gifts, a book, hydrangeas from my back yard, chocolate chip cookies, or just whatever we can share from our kitchen.
4. Focus on your guest, not your imperfect house.
When I married, my husband brought a backdoor sign with him as we established our new home together. It read, “If you are coming to the house, call ahead. If you are coming to see us, come on.” I love this. My house is not perfect. We live in our house. While we do aim to keep it clean and picked up, it stays in the “lived-in” look on most days. My goal is to welcome you, not wow you. So, I invite my guests to “come on.”
5. Sharing instead of impressing.
The focus when offering hospitality should be about sharing your home, your time, and mostly yourself. Carefully consider the conversation. Are you meeting the needs of your guest? Is the talk about you of them? Is the tone uplifting or depressing? Are you encouraging?
While honoring my guests by picking up and checking to be sure the nearest bathroom is clean, I don’t obsess about impressing. This frees me to enjoy my friend and bask in the conversation.
6. Hosting instead of Entertaining.
Hosting indicates that the guest’s needs are being determined and met. Entertaining suggests preparation of your house in decorating, gourmet foods, and impressive perfection. Hospitality focuses on offering a congeniality in the atmosphere of the home.
7. Prepare your children.
Talk to the the kids to ready them for opportunities to be hospitable. Practice table conversation that values listening more than talking. Teach them to serve by cleaning the table and cleaning the kitchen while you commit your attention to your guests. Remind them how often others serve them. Encourage your children to love donning an apron to serve. Over the last year, my children have been privileged to serve at a WWII Veteran’s Luncheon, a three day event with over 700 judges, a ministry banquet, a birthday party and opportunities in our home.
Evaporating Stress With New Habits.
When the focus is on serving instead of being self-conscience or striving to impressing others, the stress of hospitality evaporates. Serving and ministering to others transforms the giver even more than the recipient. When considering ways to nurture in your home, few habits are more impactful than hospitality habits.