words: Rachel Gerner
“To welcome the stranger is to acknowledge him as a human being made in God’s image; it is to treat her as one of equal worth with ourselves — indeed, as one who may teach us something out of the richness of experiences different from our own.”
— Ana Maria Pineda
Last Sunday, you saw that new couple in church. You wish you could invite them over for a meal, but you feel exhausted just thinking about it. With the holidays approaching, you’d love to invite your new neighbors or colleagues over for a little holiday get-together, but you cringe at the mandatory cleaning, organizing, and decorating. Does hospitality have to be so hard?
Laurie Malloy, co-founder of Simple Spaces, based in Fayetteville, Arknasas, says, “The spirit of perfectionism can feed us into a tailspin.” As the co-founder of a professional organizing and home staging company, Laurie says that she’s met many people who would like to offer a refuge to friends and family and tackle the barriers of CHAOS — which she says stands for “Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.”
The first step to offering good hospitality, is offering the gift of saying, “It’s okay,” to ourselves. Our homes may not be what we see on HGTV. We may not know which fork to use or where the butter plate goes. Too often when we think “entertaining” and “dinner party” we immediately begin worrying about whether the towels match the soap dish.
It’s time for an attitude adjustment! People are looking for others who are real and authentic. You don’t need to be an entertainer and put on a show to offer hospitality. Let’s be honest. It’ll probably leave everyone stressed and feeling awkward anyway.
Let’s take a step back. Why is it good to extend hospitality?
Everyone needs shelter and food. Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, created a hierarchy of needs (usually shown as a pyramid) with food, water, and sleep as the foundation. When those needs are met, we can then move up the pyramid and experience security, love, esteem, and self-actualization. When we invite people to an event—whether it’s a brunch, tea, dinner party, or any other variation—we invite people to experience safety, a sense of belonging, and self-esteem.
“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment,” wrote Shauna Niequist, author of Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table.
“Well, can’t we just go to a restaurant?” you might be saying. Of course you can. That said, when you want to connect with others, your home is the most intimate. It’s an extension of your personality. It also has some very practical advantages.
Dede Berger, Owner and Designer of Dream Design Events in Northwest Arkansas, says, “If you have a party at your home, you are in control of your environment. It’s less expensive than a restaurant and people can relax without strangers around them.”
What are some practical things you need to think through before you open your home to potential friends? Dede says, “You don’t need a theme, even during the holiday season. You want it to be fun and memorable so people come again. You may consider quiet music in the evening. While it’s nice to have a tablecloth, it’s all right to use plastic cups and plates (the clear ones are very elegant and it’s easy clean-up).”
Purchase and prepare supplies that you can use for drop-in visitors as well. Crackers, good cheese, and frozen cookies are items you can stash in your freezer and cupboards to pull out if an unexpected guest drops by or you extend a spontaneous invitation. Keep a teapot, good tea bags, coffee, sugar bowl and creamer in one place so you can quickly prepare a warm drink.
Consider the different personalities of your guests. “If someone is quiet, provide a comfortable chair,” says Dede. “If someone is musically talented, have them bring their instrument.” Who knows the new traditions and memories you can create!