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Can anyone else remember when we actually visited one another? Growing up in the Mennonite church meant that fellowship was an important part of the church family. I can remember visiting many different homes for a Pennsylvania Dutch meal full of carbohydrates. My mom, in turn, would have families in our home, as well.
But right around the time eating carbohydrates went of vogue, hospitality went along with it. People rarely have others into their home for a meal or even for coffee and dessert. It is much more common to meet at a restaurant or to just go to church provided functions than to worry about preparing our homes for company.
But is this a good thing? Has our culture lost something by neglecting hospitality? I believe we have lost a connection to each other that is hard to replace with other means.
So, what is keeping us from having people over for a visit? A few years ago, as my kids started growing older, they wanted to have their friends over. This meant not only their friends would see my house, but often their parents would, as well, when they picked their children up at the end of the evening! We wanted to be a home where kids felt comfortable to hang out and so I had some reconciling to do. I really struggled with my home "not being good enough". Here are some things I learned as I sorted through those feelings:
1) Your home does not need to look like a magazine. In fact, it may be better if it doesn't. I feel relief when I go into a home where everything isn't in perfect place. Spotless homes make me feel so inadequate and hopeless. I feel so much more comfortable in a home where it looks like people actually live there. Now, I am not saying to just leave your house a chaotic mess. That is not a good scenario for anyone, including your own family. But if we have given our best efforts to the organization and cleaning of our home and there are still a few things laying around we don't need to worry about it. It has been my experience that kids are geniuses at bringing in muddy shoes or dumping legos at just the wrong place and at the wrong time! Let's not let that keep us from opening our homes to one another.
2) Hospitality doesn't have to cost you a month's worth of groceries. This is a tough one, because many of us are on tight budgets. How do you open up your home to visitors without it costing a lot? There are lots of ways! We can have everyone bring a couple of dishes along so that we can all share the cost. Most families are happy to contribute and, in fact, prefer it that way. Or we can make homemade pizza. This is a really inexpensive meal - especially if we can make our own crust and sauce. I learned of another idea a few weeks ago from a family in our church. They invited us and another couple into their home for take-out Chinese. We all split the cost and had a delightful evening getting to know one another better. It was a fun, stress-free, and relaxed way to enjoy a meal together.
3) Keep in mind the real reason for hospitality. We do not open our homes to impress our friends and neighbors. It isn't to show off our cooking skills or to make others feel intimidated by our creative home decorating skills. Instead, hospitality is defined at dictionary.com like this: the friendly reception or treatment of guests or strangers. Hospitality is about being friendly and warm in our treatment of those who come into our home. That is what it is all about. If we can take our eyes off of our own insecurities and discomfort and think about others instead (speaking to myself here!) we can then turn our thoughts to others and warmly welcome them into our home and be a real blessing!
Hospitality is almost a lost art. And I, for one, believe that to be a real shame. Can we ever bring it back in this age of technology and busyness? I don't know the answer to that...but I do know that I can do my part in making it happen!