I sat in the massage chair and pushed buttons while my pedicure was underway. Thomas is a pro. With his head down, he chatted as if there were no plastic, cloth and linguistic barriers between us. He patiently repeated when I couldn’t hear. “What have you been doing,” he asks. He’s full of questions. “I’ll food shop, then prepare for a supper guest today.” His quizzical look surprises me. “She’s a hospital employee moving to Charleston; we thought it would be nice to have her over before she leaves.” He paused then said, “I know people who don’t know their neighbors even after thirty years.” I then described the annual Christmas parties we hosted in Wilmington and the next-door neighbors who met for the first time at our home. They later became great friends.
Thomas shook his head in disbelief and remarked how special we are for sharing our home, time and meal with others. His comments caused me to wonder: why are people hesitant to show hospitality, and why is the practice so vital to me?
Show hospitality to each other without complaint. Use whatever gift you’ve received for the good of one another so that you can show yourselves to be good stewards of God’s grace in all its varieties.1 Peter 4:9 The Voice
I thought back many years to the time I shared a rental house with my friend in Brandon, Mississippi. I remembered the tall, lanky white-topped man with a huge smile who lived next door. We’d been friendly with his wife and him. Everything about his personal appearance and his property shouted impeccable. He’d often say, “When we get our house fixed up we’ll have you over.” Sadly, we were never invited into his home.
I was 20, in a tiny garage apartment with my first husband, when I initially invited other people over. We held plates on our laps since we didn’t have a table. Scarcely one person could fit in the kitchen at a time. I loved that little place. It was there I learned you can’t keep raw chicken in the fridge for several weeks.
Going out to eat wasn’t common in my growing up years. A restaurant meal was a big treat. Mama had a regular rotation of simple meals which occasional guests would share at our small table.
I’m grateful for my mom’s homemaking influence. I also have deep impressions from my time spent around other people’s tables. I loved the camaraderie—the distinct flavor of each family and their special interactions with each other.
We loved our neighbors across the street like family. I felt comfortable in their home when I was a young child. There were four kids, much laughter and love in their house. I thought they were quite strict —the children were required to drink milk at meals while the grownups drank iced tea. That seemed unfair.
Later when I’d experienced too much pain for a twenty-something, hospitality wasn’t just a breath of fresh air but a lifeline. I wrote it here: How an Open Door of Hospitality Changed My Life
You cannot know what churns in the heart of the person who’s come through your door— the pain, entanglements and confusion they may carry.
Hospitality kept me alive. When surrounded by a dark cloud that blurred my vision, being amidst a vibrant, loving family recalibrated my outlook. How I’ve longed to be the person who offers that gift to someone.
There was once a single mom I’d met at church who was in a hard place. I invited her and her son to join us once a week for supper. When an idea like that comes to mind I often attribute it to the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t convenient—I was busy with a large home, husband and four children. We had simple meals those Wednesday nights. I hoped, like me, she’d benefit from being with other people in a new landscape.
Maybe I shouldn’t confess this; having people over exhausts me. The emotional part tires me more than the physical, especially when I don’t know the folks. Maybe other introverts will relate. The other night I sat down and felt like I didn’t have the energy to get ready for bed. I want you to know there is a cost, and I don’t want you to think I’m uniquely qualified for this.
Any home will do. I remember when I visited the tiny rented house of my college friend. The little house off-campus inspired me. Her artistic gifts called out from each little nook and cranny. I don’t recall the meal she served, but I remember the bright batik fabric she’d hung to divide the spaces. I loved her unique taste that was different from mine.
I love everything about home. Home inspires and uplifts those invited in.
We all need someone to care, listen and offer hope.
Share what you have with the saints, so they lack nothing; take every opportunity to open your life and home to others.Romans 12:13