I’ve been thinking a lot about hospitality lately.
- How do you do hospitality with 2m between you?
- How do you make room when you can’t share your space?
- How can you be social when you have to social distance?
- How can we welcome our neighbours when they do not welcome a deadly virus we may accidentally pass on to them?
Before lockdown began, it was our habit to invite someone into our home at least twice a week. We were intentional about that because not only do we love having people over, we believe tasks and work can never take precedence over people. Welcoming others in prevented us from becoming too comfortable in our own wee bubble.
But current circumstances mean that over the last few months we have been forced to do just that: stay in a ‘bubble.’
So what do we do now?
Because the aspects of hospitality that seemed important before now appear inconsequential or simply out of reach.
For example, I used to get really frustrated trying to tidy my house before guests came round. When there’s kids about cleaning is a bit like treading water – you never seem to get anywhere! But now people are in each other’s houses a lot less, and this preoccupation seems kind of irrelevant going forward.
Before COVID-19, ‘a warm welcome’ may have conjured up images of a roaring fire, Good Housekeeping interiors, a substantial supper and attentive service. Now – notwithstanding the fact that hardly any of us live up to these ideals anyway – they seem somewhat extraneous under current restrictions.
As I’ve thought back over my most treasured memories of hospitality, it felt tempting to be wistful at how far out of reach some of them are to me now:
• Falling into a friend’s spare bed for a much longed-for nap and coming down two hours later to freshly made pizza and well-cared for kids.
• Sipping a steaming cup of tea in the candlelight, with a purring cat curled up on my lap.
• Lifting a big pile of washing off the sofa onto the floor and sinking down into it (the sofa, that is – not the washing!) for a morning heart-to-heart.
• Being told to put my feet up, handed a blanket and a plate of my favourite oatmeal biscuits, then dozing off for the afternoon.
• Squeezing elbow-to-elbow around a table in a tiny kitchen with steamed-up windows and tucking into a bronzed turkey that was almost the size of the room itself.
As I’ve reminisced, however, I’ve realised that in all of these memories, it wasn’t so much the food and ambience that were important, but rather the message communicated to me by the people who offered them:
‘Come and share my life. I have made room for you – not only in my home, but in the recesses of my heart.‘
You see, in the midst of these moments, I didn’t once measure the warmth of the welcome by the surroundings, the heat of the fire or the sophistication of the supper spread. What I treasured was the feeling that surrounded my heart as someone offered me the best of what they had: food, time, attention, love and care.
While we can no longer entertain squeezing ourselves like sardines around a dining table or having a nap in someone else’s bed, these memories have reminded me that what you serve to others and where it happens doesn’t matter as much as how you offer it and the heart you offer it with.
So what might hospitality look like going forward? Here’s some food for thought:
- It might be your lovely neighbour delivering you a homegrown lettuce and punnet of strawberries.
- Or distributing some scones you’ve made to the residents of your street.
- Or taking the time to see if friends need shopping or letters need posting.
- Or chatting leisurely in the street.
- Or starting a community Whatsapp group so you can keep in touch and ask for help if needed.
- Or even looking after a pet while its owner is on holidays.
… It’s making room for those extra interactions
… It’s slowing down to enjoy meaningful conversations.
… It’s offering the space in our lives, that we didn’t have before, on a plate to others.
What you serve to others and where it happens doesn’t matter so much as how you offer it and the heart you offer it with.lookingforeden
Before lockdown, ‘making room’ meant cleaning the house and clearing a couple of hours in our packed schedules.
Before lockdown, ‘making room’ meant scrambling around chucking things into cupboards and wiping down surfaces; so when guests arrived we could be present to the people in front of us, not distracted by a splattering of spaghetti Bolognese on the floor or the muddy footprints at the front door.
So maybe it’s not so bad that things have changed now. After all, it’s during challenging and perilous times that little things given with a lot of love make the biggest impact. It’s when we offer immediate and tangible care that our neighbours realise we want to do their bodies and souls good!
Christian hospitality shines brightest in challenging, perilous days. Shallow interactions thrive on shiny surfaces and glossy first impressions, but deep friendships are forged in the real stuff of life.
Because hospitality is not just about “opening our doors, but opening our very souls.” (Rev. Mark Suslenko). It’s not packing meet ups into your diary… but offering people your inner space, giving them sustained attention, and meeting the needs of the people who are right in front of you,
What does hospitality look like for you these days? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Shallow interactions thrive on shiny surfaces and glossy first impressions, but deep friendships are forged in the grimy stuff of lifeLookingforeden
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