So, we know that our home is for hospitality, but it seems so hard – it’s extra, and we have no room for extra.
The one thing that makes hospitality so difficult is that we are out of practice.
It is easy to slip into selfish patterns: doing what needs to be done on our own agendas, taking a break, keeping to ourselves and our own thoughts. Instead, we need to practice the habit of hospitality.
The habit of hospitality includes but is much broader than having people over for dinner. It means inviting people into our lives – even the people that live in our houses.
It is not enough to simply share a roof with people. We need to share a life – a full life, a conversational life – with them.
And that sort of life will overflow into the lives of others through invitations and conversations, but mostly through our demeanor. The way we treat people is either selfish or welcoming, inviting, and interested. When we practice that mindset and manner with our family, it will become how we treat others as well. The habit of hospitality will shape all our interactions.
The ways we are hospitable to others are the same ways we are hospitable to our family. And if we are not first hospitable to our family, we cannot be truly hospitable to anyone else.
Too often, society’s default is to assume that being authentic and “sharing life” means being discourteous and rude. “Being real” means letting our worst side show and expecting others to love us anyway rather than loving them more than ourselves by fighting our selfish desires and putting other people’s comfort and interests above our own.
Manners are love displayed in little things.
We teach our children manners first by having manners ourselves. We teach our children manners by instructing them, but also by treating them courteously. Manners is love in action, not a show to put on to impress people.
The habit of hospitality is a disposition, a set of manners that goes beyond chewing with our mouths closed and using a napkin instead of our sleeves.
So here are three habits we can practice to become increasingly hospitable – in our attitude as well as in our actions.
Habit of Hospitality #1: Offer refreshment
Early on, my husband and I learned a hospitality tip that has served us well: immediately after welcoming someone in, offer a beverage.
A drink is hospitable. It’s showing concern for others’ welfare, putting their comfort first, and putting people at ease.
Make it your go-to hospitality strategy and you won’t go wrong, either for guests or even for your own children.
If you want to break ice, start a conversation, or make someone feel cared for – offer a drink.
Habit of Hospitality #2: Ask questions
The best way to get a conversation flowing is to ask questions rather than pontificate. Ask genuine questions about interests, experiences, history and follow up with questions as you listen.
This is easier and more natural when we have guests, but we can use this strategy with our children, also. Do we actually listen to their thoughts and stories? Can we show them the same courtesy we would a guest?
Let us show the most courtesy and express the most loving kindness to those we love most and not only to those we know least.
If you want someone to feel loved, ask them questions – and listen receptively.
Habit of Hospitality #3: Prepare
A friend walks in and we say, “Make yourself at home.”
What does it mean?
Does it mean belch at the table or toss your trash on the floor?
Letting our children do so is not letting them be themselves, it’s letting them be little beasts rather than little humans.
It does mean respecting them as people and not treating them as pets or projects.
It also means keeping our homes as places where people can make themselves at home. Is there food in the cupboards, supplies for creativity, and space for conversations? Is there room for people around the table? Is there room for people on the couch? Is it unsanitary or unsafe to be comfortable and freely use the house as a stage for life?
Lived in homes are not pristine showcases, nor should they be. A guest – or a child – should not be afraid to disturb the perfection. Homes should be ready tools for real use.
Let that standard – rather than a magazine spread or Instagram photo – be your guide.
Can people – family or not – feel at home here?
Habit of Hospitality Bonus: Smile!
This single habit will increase your hospitality quotient and should be applied while performing all the above.
Our own demeanors will be the most significant factor in our hospitality. What is our expression when we look at those in our home, whether we’re related to them or not?
Let it be one of benevolent interest, of warm affection, and even of delight.
Let us be glad they are in our house.
And let them see we are glad.