Hospitality. The very word conjures up visions of women in heels and pearls, laboring over stoves, setting candle-lit tables and going to tremendous efforts without the benefit of being able to complain about all the work involved. Sadly, many of us have an outdated idea of what hospitality really means. When the Bible suggests we show hospitality to others (1 Peter 4:8-10, Romans 12:13) it’s not suggesting we make Martha Stewart-like efforts to impress others and wear ourselves ragged. What’s really being suggested is that we have others in our homes and share some food, and most importantly, some life together. Now, this can mean a Martha Stewart effort, but it certainly doesn’t have to. Here are six ways to show hospitality without wearing yourself out and driving yourself crazy.
1. Start small.
If you’re not accustomed to having people into your home, I wouldn’t suggest starting with an eight course dinner party. Start with something modest and move on to something more involved when you’re ready. Or not. The point is to eat and share life with others. The point is also to be interested in your guests and show them you value their company. Moving on to something more involved is totally optional.
2. How about coffee?
Invite a friend over for coffee. If you want to, bake some muffins or a banana bread. If baking isn’t your thing, buy some. There is absolutely nothing wrong with serving a cup of coffee and some purchased baked goods. Then, as you drink your coffee and munch, engage your friend in conversation and practice the fine art of listening. Everyone loves the chance to talk uninterrupted.
3. How about those Flames?
Invite friends in to watch a sporting event. I live in Calgary, Canada. So, six months of the year, the Calgary Flames are uppermost in many minds. Whether you like hockey or football, figure skating or golf, invite people to watch with you. I have a crowd over every year to watch the Grey Cup (the Canadian version of the Super Bowl), and I serve very simple food, like chili, nachos, wings and big bowls of potato chips. It’s fun, and because we’re watching the game and talking about sports, it’s very little effort. I also have a group of women friends who’ve been watching the Academy Awards at my place for the past 25 years. Everyone brings an appetizer, I light some candles and turn on the TV, and we have a great time together watching one of the most boring shows ever aired!
4. Have a potluck.
Share the load. Most North Americans lead very busy lives and understand that you do, too. Invite people over and ask them to contribute to the meal. Normally, the host home prepares any meat dish involved, but anything else is fair game. My sister is part of a potluck group that meets every Monday night. They rotate homes with the host home making the main course and the other contributors bringing salad and dessert. They have resolved to “keep the bar low” so that it never becomes too much work for the group to continue. I think it’s a fabulous idea.
5. Make brunch.
If the thought of a full meal terrifies you, consider having people in for brunch. Pancakes are cheap, easy and delicious. So are bagels, muffins and French toast. Serve lots of coffee and juice along with one of the above-noted carbs, some bacon or sausage and fruit. The meal won’t be expensive or time-consuming, but I bet it will be delicious. If the conversation lags, have a few pre-planned questions in mind to get things going. Examples could be asking couples how they met, talking about favorite family vacations or asking about movie recommendations. Be certain to listen to everyone’s answers and be sure everyone gets a turn. After a while, the conversation will take care of itself.
6. Put your guests to work.
Plan a meal where your guests help with the work. For example, invite people over for homemade pizza and ask everyone to bring a topping. Part of the evening’s entertainment will consist of your guests building pizzas together. You could also build sandwiches together, make omelets with each person’s favorite filling, or fondue the assembled offerings. Working together is fun and it cuts down both the cost and the workload for the host. Also, people working together naturally talk and laugh and get to know one another.
Remember, the point of entertaining others isn’t to impress with restaurant-quality food and magazine-worthy tablescapes. The point is to enjoy life and fellowship with one another while also enjoying some food. I deliver library books to a 96 year-old man who no longer drives. We’ve developed a little pattern: he makes the coffee, and I bring the baked goods, his library books and a poem to share. He loves poetry and loves having others read to him. A few days ago, we spent a very pleasant hour together while I read aloud from Robert Service and John Masefield as he happily dove into the treats I’d brought along. Was this hospitality? I sure think so. My friend and I shared life together over a cup of coffee and a shared love of the written word. I drove away smiling, feeling deeply enriched by his keen observations and sharp wit…so simple, yet so rewarding.
Why not get brave? Throw away your fears of inadequacy and judgement and open your heart to the idea of hospitality. As long as there’s something to eat and a willingness to share your life with another, you can be not only passing the hours but building community and making new memories. The ideas listed above are just a starting point. If you can think of a way you’d like to share your life with others over food in your home, try it. Your guests are bound to love you for it.
Karen Vine is a regular contributor to the Soul Care Collective.
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