Hospitality: Creating Community and Welcome at Home

Hospitality, homecoming and 3 tips on how to welcome people well.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about hospitality. Probably because I’ve had house guests just about non stop since mid September! It’s been great to have friends, extended family, international colleagues, and college students at our home over the past few weeks.

Kristin Schell came to speak to our mother/daughter organization this week about hospitality. One of of the questions she asked us was “What keeps you from having people over.” So often for me it can be lack of preparedness – laundry on the couch, dishes in the sink, etc. The thought of someone judging me makes me weak at the knees. Kristin also asked us, “Someone is coming in 15 minutes, what do you do?” ACK! My worst hospitality fail was a few years ago. There were wildfires in the area that caused nearby neighborhoods to evacuate. Without hesitation, I called our dear friends and offered our home if they needed a place to stay. I was already having a large extended family group over for dinner for Labor Day, so a few more folks were easy to accommodate. What I realized however, is that one daughter’s room, the guest room (aka “the kids lounge”) and their bathroom were in no way guest ready. The rest of the house was clean and there was plenty of food but YIKES!! My friends were really grateful for a place to stay, but I decided then and there, that I didn’t want to be caught unprepared again. After the fires were contained and all the company left, we added an egg crate mattress pad to the pull out couch in the lounge, cleaned out the bathroom cabinets, got rid of old towels, bought some new towels and wash cloths, etc. You get the idea. It wasn’t a remodel but boy did we need some upkeep. I have taken that lesson to heart. I’m no Martha Stewart. I’m likely to always have something out of place, but here are a few things I’ve learned to make hospitality easier:

  1. It’s not about you the host, it’s about your guest. Stop worrying and focus on what will make the guest comfortable and feel good. You will feel good, too.
  2. Discipline and habit go a long way toward preparedness.  In our culture of multi-tasking, sometimes its hard to finish things, especially a housekeeping job because it’s practically a never ending cycle of wash, rinse, repeat. My sister’s friend sets a time for 10 minutes to “reset” her while she’s cleaning the house. Like her, I’ll fold the laundry, take it to the room, start to put it away but see something else that needs to go someplace else and it spirals out from there. The timer acts to reorient my friend to the original task at hand. With house guests for the past month, my family has gotten a great lesson in discipline and habit. The public areas in the house are staying reasonably guest ready (meaning there are no socks on/in the couch or computer cords to trip over.)  Hooray!
  3. Don’t wait for things to be perfect to invite people in. Friends, perfect is just not going to happen and that is absolutely ok. I’m always going to have laundry in the laundry room and someday I’ll get new couches. Authenticity is more welcoming than perfection.

Hospitality creates community and welcome in a world that is sorely lacking in both.

What’s your best tip for being “guest ready?”

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