The young friend replied, “Oh, no ma’am, I don’t want to overstay my welcome or cause you to cook for an extra person. But, thank-you for the offer.”
I woke this morning recalling yesterday’s response to my offer for our son’s friend to stay an additional day and join us for our traditional New Year’s Day meal of pork and sauerkraut with mounds of fluffy mashed potatoes. Now, granted, kraut is probably not on everyone’s list of favorite foods (give kraut a chance, friends) but I do believe the friend’s response was simply out of courtesy and not a dislike of our traditional meal.
While I appreciate the friend’s thoughtfulness, this “got me to thinking”. Showing hospitality is such an integral part of our family’s life that I can’t see past it. I almost can’t comprehend another way of life. Having many folks to serve in my home fills my soul. Offering blessings from my kitchen is what I do. It is what I know. It is life on this earth. It is what I am made of. It is how I show love. I am weak in body and soul without folks for whom I can plan, nest, prepare, cook, and serve.
What have I learned about showing hospitality?
It is not a Tour of Spotlessly Clean Homes. Folks are more comfortable with realness. Frankly, so am I. But, I haven’t always believed this truth. Once upon a time, I adequately stressed my family out when preparing for guests. Clean every corner, wash every piece of laundry, and for Pete’s sake, re-line the kitchen utensil drawer with fresh paper! After all, mustn’t every needless and unseen corner of the house be clean!?! Why not **completely** stress every member of the family before guests arrive, at which time acting like Mr. Roarke on the 1970’s show, Fantasy Island?! Tattoo announces the guests’ arrival on “de plane, de plane” and with the wave of his hand, Mr. Roarke proclaims, “Smiles everyone, smiles.”
Then…it happened. One day I was visiting a family member’s home. It wasn’t just a drop-in visit; it was a planned meal with several guests. In a very visible spot of the house, I noticed what would change my life and perspective forever. A “dustbunny”, dust ball, big visible evidence that the hosts were more concerned with fellowship—comfort, peace, love and joy in their home than taking captive Every. Single. Dustbunny. I remember looking around the room that held the Special Ball of Dust. I noted, and remember even today, the ease of the hosts, the smiles and laughter coming from the guests, the comfort food, the joy of simple fellowship, the love of the friends and family in that room.
Relief. That did it! My Abba Father can use a stinkin’ little ball of dust to teach me a lesson. Nowadays, I can rest in the knowledge that having a spotless, “plastic” environment can actually cause more unease for my guests than Just. Being. Real.
Folks want and need relationship. Repeat: People want and need relationship. No matter one’s stance on religion, politics, education, or kraut preference, relationship is what is left when we pour all of life into a big cast-iron Dutch oven and cook it down. (I am a slow learner.)
Since the Day of my Dustbunny Lesson I have nearly wept for utmost joy when friend-after-friend enters the screen door of our farmhouse and sighs with relief, “I am home.” The time when a new friend (a University college professor) visited with his family for the first time and fell asleep on our front porch swing is memorable. After waking from his warm air nap, he rested in the thought, “I was so comfortable. Thank-you.” That’s not the only time a friend has felt comfortable enough to nap in our home when visiting. And you know what?? I have decided THAT is the highest compliment we will ever receive regarding showing hospitality, dustbunnies not withstanding.
So, to our son’s precious friend, please know that life and home is about sharing. And, personally, I am more fulfilled when I have plenty of folks for whom to cook. Even if we run out of pork tenderloin (like that time an interesting friend came and ate it all), we can cook a pot of garlic cheese grits or pull out bowls of unhealthy sugar cereal.
For today, New Year’s Day 2018, our family will happily sit around a table laden with traditional pork and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and black-eyed peas and ignore the dustbunnies.
So, come. Rest. Fellowship. Take a nap.
Happy New Year, Ya’ll!