One evening while in college, a friend, his girlfriend, and I were invited to enjoy dinner at the home of my friend’s grandmother. While she fixed dinner, someone knocked on the door. We opened the door to discover a traveling salesman advertising his wares…vacuums in this case. My friend’s grandmother invited him in and allowed him to demonstrate the amazing feats of his vacuum. We all listened while he told us about power, cleanliness, and pricing. She did not buy a vacuum that day. However, while he finished his spiel, my friend’s grandmother set the table, carefully arranging the dishes and chairs to allow for one extra place at the table. As he packed up to leave, she invited him to stay for dinner…and he stayed! That vacuum salesman did not sell a vacuum in that house, but he did enjoy a wonderful dinner before he left. I often remember that incident…a stranger invited in for a dinner, no charge, no expectation, just the hospitality of a good meal and conversation. That day, I learned a lesson on hospitality…I watched as a legacy of hospitality took shape right before my eyes!
Throughout my life, various people have shown great hospitality to me. They have allowed me to sleep in their homes and eat their food. Hospitable people have allowed me to watch TV with them and even let my clumsy hands help them with various projects. One hospitable person even met me at the border of Mexico, escorted me on a bus into Mexico, allowed me to stay at his home, fed me his food, and walked for over half a day to bring back fresh water for me to drink. That is hospitality!
Hospitality is a wonderful legacy to leave our families, a legacy our children can witness as they grow up and emulate when they start their own home. We can build a legacy of hospitality in a couple of ways. First, practice hospitality in your own home…model it. Invite others to share meals with you. Invite guests to visit in your home. This will mean making your home environment welcoming. I used to visit homes for work. Many homes I visited were very hospitable. Some, however, were not hospitable. In some homes I felt like I was not allowed to converse because the TV took priority…or the home was so filled with clutter that I had no place to sit and no one seemed to care that I could not sit. These homes were not conducive to hospitality. They were not welcoming. To practice hospitality, create a home environment that is welcoming to others. Make sure your teens know that there are chips, apples, and oranges for their friends to snack on when they come to visit. Have a place to sit where everyone can see one another and freely talk to one another. Be sure to keep a supply of games for all to enjoy.
Second, quit worrying about whether your home is spotless. Of course, we want it clean enough that no one is uncomfortable, but don’t worry about perfection. Instead of spending your time worrying about every crumb, every ring left by a glass on the coffee table, and every piece of dust, spend your time connecting with the people who come to your home. Instead of rushing around making sure that the food is perfectly prepared and a visual delight, invest your time in talking with your guests. Be a “Mary” rather than a “Martha.” Get to know your guests. Let them experience your acceptance. Connect with them.
A legacy of hospitality will provide you and your family hours of enjoyment and an abundance of positive memories. It will instill a sense of hospitality in your children that they can take with them anywhere they go. You may find them showing polite hospitality in a store by talking with a stressed mother and even allowing her to go through the check-out line first; or, friendly hospitality to the check-out clerk who is having a bad day. A little hospitality in the home will have ripple effects in your family and community.
I like what Lauren Winner says in her book Mudhouse Sabbath. She reminds us that the practice of hospitality is actually modeled after God’s example. God created the world and then invited us in. Although we have made our messes in His creation, He still invites us in. When God became a man and walked the earth as Jesus, He ate with us and entered into our lives. Today, God still invites us into His life. Even more, He invites us into His family! Now that is a legacy of hospitality!