I recently read a fantastic book by Shauna Niequest – Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes. It came out several years ago, but if you haven’t read it yet, I definitely recommend you do! In her book she explains, “the heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved.” I don’t know about you, but that strikes a chord with me. That’s how I want people to feel in my home. But to do that… I think I need to become a little less Martha and a little more Mary.
Before reading Shauna’s book, if you asked me to close my eyes and picture what I thought hospitality looked like, I would have envisioned the perfect dinner party. Fresh-cut flowers, white platters full of beautifully arranged cheeses, olives, grapes, and crusty breads, glasses of chilled white wine, a spotless kitchen in a clutter-free home with an organized yet, relaxed host smiling warmly in the background…
I’m not about to tell you that any of that is a bad thing. I think a beautiful party can be such a blessing for friends and family! But the best kind of hospitality isn’t about hosting the perfect dinner party. It’s about eagerly and generously serving others in love.
So for any of you who might be detail-oriented, task-focused, gourmet food lovers like me – is it possible to change our approach to hospitality? I say, yes! By making a few simple changes like:
- Worrying less about all the details and instead thinking about the people. Instead of focusing tons of attention on the most flavorful and seasonal menu, perfecting the place settings, deep cleaning every corner, meticulously arranging flowers and candles, etc. I want to spend the majority of my time thinking my guests. How can I make each guest feel uniquely special, genuinely appreciated, and above all, loved? Do they have any allergies or a special diet I need to keep in mind? Do they have a favorite beverage or dish? What topics do they enjoy talking about? Is there anything they are struggling with? Genuine hospitality isn’t about the details – it’s about the people.
- Not apologizing when everything isn’t perfect. Whenever I’m the host, I am my own worst critic. I find myself constantly apologizing to guests… for the food not being quite ready, for too much vinegar in the dressing, for not enough salt on the pork, for the loud ice machine noises, for cracker crumbs in the rug… But as hard as it may be for me to ignore these things, I’ve learned that often guests barely notice. Or if they do, it puts them a little bit at ease to see that I’m a real person and far from perfect. Here’s another excerpt from Shauna Niequest’s book Bread and Wine that I think explains this well:
“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home.
- Delivering meals and baked goods to family, friends or neighbors. Sometimes we forget that hospitality extends beyond hosting people in our homes. If you or your kids enjoy baking, take the time to make a little bit extra. Dropping off (or mailing) a box of cookies, loaf of banana bread, a few cupcakes, – and I can’t stress enough how life-giving the delivery of a freshly cooked meal can be! This could be for the new mom at church, the neighbor grieving the loss of a loved one, the friend recovering from surgery or a coworkers who is just having a bad week.
Well, those are my thoughts 🙂 I would love to hear from you! What does hospitality look like to you?
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