Hospitality seems to be dying away in our busy culture. We love to host people in our home, but it tends to go in spurts. When we go a long time without having friends over for dinner, or coffee, or an open house or theme party, we can easily find excuses why we can't: we are too busy, the house is too messy, or we can't afford it.
I don't like to get out of the habit of having people over, for hospitality greases the wheels of friendship and breaks down barriers in our relationships. Meeting for a movie or dinner at a restaurant is lots of fun, and has its place, but more and more friendships are developing outside of people's homes, and I think an element of warmth and intimacy is missing when you meet at an external location.
I want my friends and family to know me as I really am, and part of that openness is tied into being in my home environment. When I clean my house for my guests, I am serving them in a very practical way. Not to show off or put on airs, but simply because I like to live in a neat and orderly place, and I want to share that part of myself with my friends.
Preparing food for guests has a certain pleasure to it as well, because in putting effort into a meal and the presentation of the table, we are saying that our friendships are valuable to us. It is a tactile way of telling people how much we care about them, and sharing food is a great way to create lasting memories with people in our circle of friends.
My heart was warmed the other day when Ava and William had a group of neighbour kids over to play. They were on the back deck with an array of barbies and dinosaurs, when Ava came in and began pulling cups out of the cupboard and filling them with water. I asked her what she was doing, and she replied, "I asked my friends if they wanted water, and so I'm getting it for them." A little while later, she asked if she could offer them a snack of animal crackers which she found in the pantry, and I said yes.
Somewhere along the line she has picked up hospitality from us, and I couldn't be prouder of that quality developing in her. I never want to be so busy or stressed that I give up hosting friends for meals in my home. It doesn't matter whether or not it's reciprocated, because hospitality isn't about ticks in a column on a scorecard. It's about giving of ourselves, and sharing our lives on a real level with people we care about, and I hope we always value it near the top of our priority list.