Is your table big enough for folks outside your family? Is your heart large enough to offer a hand of friendship to a neighbor or a stranger?
I remember how scared I was the day before I hosted a dinner in our home for the very first time. As a new bride, I was very excited and anxious about setting a table and serving new friends— another married couple. I was a public school teacher and I worried about having time to get everything ready. I decided to prepare the meal ahead of time. I guess I was afraid I wouldn’t be ready otherwise. I wish I could remember how I arrived at my particular thinking and what food I’d served. I do remember that it wasn’t well suited to being prepared ahead. In other words, it was quite overcooked by the time we sat down to eat. Looking back, I could probably easily have whipped it together after school that day. That was back in the day when I’d sit in bed at night poring over cookbooks and imagining serving the lovely staged meals in the photos.
The meal surely wasn’t all that great, but I do remember the conversation being easy and the enduring friendship which began that night.
I recall another low point early in my culinary career. My sweet daddy went to the grocery store and bought me a chicken after he happened to see the one I’d planned to cook for dinner. It would be my first chicken and who knew they had expiration dates? If he hadn’t intervened, I may not be here today to tell my story!
My mom was wonderful in the kitchen, daily working her magic; I certainly didn’t lack an example. I likely had no interest in cooking at my parents’ home. That seems to be how kids are. Until it’s important to you, you don’t acquire the skill.
My first hosting experience came back to me recently along with the nervous feelings. It was such an odd feeling— I don’t remember having anxiety about hospitality in thirty years or more. Here was the occasion: our new neighbors were coming over for dinner! We’d barely met them and it would be my first time cooking and entertaining in our new home in Columbia.
Why show hospitality?
As Christ followers we’re connected to a large body of other people. We need each other. Hospitality is a practical way to show love to fellow Christians as well as to those who don’t have a relationship with Christ. As we sit around a table together we’re on common, level ground. Our homes are the perfect place to reach out to people of different backgrounds and lavish them with kindness.
1 Peter 4:8-9
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Romans 12:13, 15-16
When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
- Call and invite someone over for a meal before you have time to get scared.
- Say yes if your guest asks to bring something. People like to help and it makes everyone more relaxed.
- Offer who you are and what you have–be authentic!
- Don’t wait until your house is ready!
- Order pizza & salad or prepare something simple.
- Don’t attempt a Thanksgiving meal!
- If you do the prep, a one dish meal is best. A pot of soup or large salad with a delicious loaf of bread, for instance. Band-Aid Bread (Recipe Included)
- Set the table ahead of time. Use what you have—light a candle and cut some flowers or greenery from your yard.
- Remember the essentials: a smile and a listening ear.
Our recent dinner with neighbors went well. We enjoyed learning about each other and they seemed to like the meal. I even told them a bit of my story and confessed that I was nervous that night.
My first entertaining experience lit a flame in me that’s never gone out. There’s nothing I’ve enjoyed more than inviting people to share our table. A magic happens there unlike anywhere else. Is your table big enough?
“People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou