Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hospitality..the Heart and Art

H.o.s.p.i.t.a.l.i.t.y....the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

Hospitality is making invited guests, people who just drop by, or complete strangers feel like they are your friends.

Hospitality is about receiving people and giving more of your 3 t's (time, talent, treasure) than is strictly necessary or expected.

Hospitality is being kind and pleasant and it gives delight to both the guests and the hosts.

Hospitality isn't about the fancy set table or the paper plates. Or the prime rib or the leftovers. Hospitality is a heart issue. 

Hospitality is not about impressing, but encouraging. Hospitality is not extended in order to put people in your debt. You are, but you aren't doing them a favor. Hospitality isn't about being the hostess with the most-est, but rather looking to the comfort and refreshment of your guests. It is about connecting, sharing, open hands/doors/hearts. It is about being a instrument of peace, hope, joy, light, faith, consolation, understanding, and love. (thanks, St. Francis of Assisi)

Hospitality is multi-faceted. It can be throwing a party. Or opening your home to drop in visitors. It can be overnight guests or afternoon guests sharing a cup of tea with conversation. It's both receiving and entertaining people you know and don't know. It is giving of yourself and your resources. It can be either formal or informal.

We will all probably have the opportunity to brush up on our hospitality skills this holiday season. Here are some concrete hospitality guidelines that I learned from experiencing and observing other's hospitality and from practicing hospitality myself.

1) Look to the comfort of your guests.
In the first few minutes...Greet your guests as they come through the door. Take coats. Discuss shoes (on or off). Offer a drink-coffee, tea, water, something stronger. Usher them into your home and your life.

If your guests are overnight guests, try to give them their own space. A room with a door where they can sequester if needed. Obviously a guest room is ideal. But, not all of us have a guest room. So, try to give your overnight guests their own spot in a place that disrupts your family's routine the least. I have found this to be the most sustainable and pleasant arrangement for all.

Show your guests where the bathroom is, and the coffee, and towels and drinking glasses. Consider sharing your wifi connection code.

If there are kids, give them boundaries. Let them know the house rules-where they can play and if anything is off limits. And then prepare for the rules and other things to be broken. And let it go.

This is important with adults too. If you don't eat in your living room, feel free to let them know in a gracious way. And so on...

2) Mi casa su casa. My house-your house. Enough said. Make people feel as welcome and comfortable in your house as they'd feel in their own.

For me, this involves finding the balance between serving your guests and letting them help themselves. I know that I always feel the most comfortable in people's houses when they let me help out-wash the dishes or make my own coffee or whatever. If I am useful I am comfortable.

3) Showcase your gifts-wedding gifts and talent-gifts.

Lately it has been vogue to hail the merits of casual. Paper plates and plastic silverware. Pizza out of boxes. There is nothing wrong with casual. There is nothing meritorious in it either.

And there is nothing right or wrong with hauling out the china, linens and stemware if you have it and love it. A beautifully set table is nothing to be ashamed of. How much better to haul out the dishes for the enjoyment of everyone than to leave them gathering dust in your cupboards!

Use what you have. Including your talents. Decorations, cooking, conversation. Whatever gifts God has given you, use them for the benefit of others.

Which leads to my next point...

4) Don't apologize-not to yourself or others. Not for the tableware or the food or anything. If your heart is right, there is nothing to apologize for. Don't let what you have or don't have deter you from being hospitable. Because it isn't about the trappings-it is about the heart. It is about friendly and generous reception of people in through your doors and into your heart. Give what you can, and be okay with that.

Put yourself into your guests shoes and think, what would I appreciate if I was in this exact situation? Then do that.

Who are you going to practice on?