The birthplace of hospitality, philos…xenos, love…stranger.
It’s that simple. Be hospitable by loving strangers. The simplicity of it is exactly what it’s meant to be. Hospitality isn’t meant to be a beautiful 4-course meal, a perfectly decorated home or 3000 plus square feet with hill country views. While all of those things are beautiful blessings and should be shared, if available to you, they are not required. They are not the prerequisite to be hospitable. To love strangers.
Loving strangers is the art of welcoming them. This can be in your front yard or at your kitchen table, I love that there are options. On the days that you are overwhelmed with life, motherhood and the mounding amount of clothes these tiny humans manage to soil within 5 days, simply sit outside. Pull up a chair, a table, a smile. Speak up as others pass by and wave at those who drive. Make your smile the thing that strangers remember as they make that split second gesture to respond. A smile may turn into a wave that may turn to a conversation that may turn to a friend. But how will we know if we don’t crack the code between those lips and expose our pearly whites.
Loving strangers is listening to them. This is not my love language, listening, but I’m learning it and it is one of the most beautiful forms of communication I have ever encountered. Listening has gifted me with stories, experiences, life going on in the very people I have the pleasure of speaking with. Listening has shown me grace as I cleanse my own thoughts out of my mind and truly take in the words of those speaking. Listening has taught me compassion, to not be quick to fix but be quick to hear. Hear their heart, their story and extend the gift of presence. Seeing a friend’s eyes well up with tears is a humbling experience that you have just been invited into, but you can only see it if you are actually looking into their eyes…instead of your phone.
Loving strangers is accepting them. Accepting them despite their idiosyncrasies, despite their lack of affection, despite their dog that may or may not crap on your yard. Loving them means not trying to change them but get to know them. Hear their back story and understand why they are the way they are. My husband and I participated in a questionnaire that involved us sharing one small disagreement and then diving down the rabbit whole of how it made us feel, what story we were telling ourselves, how we reacted and what the backstory was. It was life altering. A small disagreement that was nothing serious and honestly a common occurrence in our home, both being Type A, was placed into this grid of exploration and delivered a backstory on my husband that in 13 years, I had never heard. What I thought was just him being insensitive or condescending was actually him responding to a word I had used with my son that triggered a memory that made him uncomfortable. Once hearing this backstory I realized that he wasn’t questioning my parenting, he was simply feeling vulnerable over a difficult memory. Learning his backstory gave me the chance to not only extend him grace but make sure that I was careful in the choice of words I used. And this my friends was by no means an interaction with a stranger, this is my husband!!! Can you imagine if we gave that same thought and intention to everyone in our life. That we stopped taking everything personally and started asking questions, looking for a back story? Now not everyone is a words person or built to spew the contents of their lives, so this is one of those opportunities where patience is key and time is a must. We don’t rush this process to happen in our timeline but sit in it and wait patiently.
To be honest, hospitality has not always been my strong suit. I have always feared that inviting others into my home would expose my weaknesses. Would leave me on the chopping block for judgement. That when they opened my fridge and saw very little food, they would instantly think we were struggling. To be honest, my fridge only carries the food that we will be eating for that week. While I would love to have a fully stocked fridge full of possibilities to change my mind at a whim of what we are eating for dinner that night, that is just not my reality. My reality is a one income household with 3 children that graze 24/7 and meal planning on a budget. Food is a precious commodity and gift that I don’t take for granted. I literally ration out my cheese sticks and yogurts because I have just enough until next grocery day. This is not me being cheap, this is me surviving on the income we have and I’m okay with it. But I am sure you see the fear laced within it about having guests over. The fear of them needing food that I don’t have overwhelms me to the point of just not having anyone over. Until recently. It hit me. They are okay. Set realistic expectations and release yourself from your own. I have learned to let my guests know to pack a snack for their little’s and I have found affordable, hospitable ways to host. My love for baking comes in handy, as baking is affordable and fun for me. I can simply throw a $2 box of muffins in the oven and put on a pot of coffee. This small offering of a snack and drink welcomes my guest but is not the most crucial element. That my friend is the time. The time we carved out, invested in and set aside for this person, this neighbor, this friend. I guarantee you while they may nibble on a muffin and sip on some coffee, this is not what they will remember most. They will remember that time that you sat with them, listened, cried and laughed. They will remember you.
Having to release ourselves of our own insecurities is a must in mastering the art of hospitality. Friends, no one cares. Really. And those that do, well…bless them. Whether you have laundry on your couch or dishes in your sink, your time, your presence is the most important commodity. For those of you, ie: me, that can’t always get over the disarray of our home, simply sit outside. Read the book, The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell, and shower yourself with the grace of simple hospitality in your own front yard.
Hospitality doesn’t look like perfect, it looks like presence. It looks like people.
Lets start loving our neighbors, lifting up our friends and lowering the expectations of what it all has to look like. Find what brings you joy and share it with others. If you wait until you have enough money, a prettier home or a chef’s kitchen, you will be missing on an opportunity to serve the very people that may share in your same insecurities. You opening your imperfect home with barely there meals or placing that table on your front lawn gives permission. Permission for the rest of us, who news flash are also struggling, to do it too. To get it right and not with things but with thoughts, with heart moves and the best of intentions.
Lets serve. Lets Love.