Welcome: The Priceless Gifts of Hospitality

Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.”~Julia Child

Julia’s wise, evocative words have been echoing for me lately as we prepare to host some gatherings at home and as I’ve just helped run a large breakfast event at a local school to raise funds for its benefit.

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In the frenzy leading up to the latter, I kept trying to focus on the key for me, which was hospitality.  I.e. “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”

Yet, in the bustle of logistics and organizing, how easy it can be to lose sight of the essence of what we are trying to do when we receive people as hosts! Accepting.  Welcoming. Connecting.

True hospitality is a gift that, in the words of Kathleen Norris, is “…marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person.”

Theologian, priest, professor Henri Nouwen wrote eloquently about the potent possibility of hospitality: “Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”

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In a conversation with some new friends yesterday, folks talked about how anxious they can get when people come over–focusing so much on providing the perfect time (impossible!) that they either make others uncomfortable or they themselves are too anxious to enjoy the actual experience of connecting with their guests.  I’ve been there, too.

But after all of these decades of entertaining, I realize that the invaluable opportunity we have when we host, that of welcoming and connecting, is far too important to squander on mere trivia or superficiality.

It needn’t be some highfalutin’  endeavor–a cup of tea or a simple snack offers the same opportunity to be kind, magnanimous.  Like so many things, it’s all about intention. The key is generosity of spirit.

May hospitality find you….

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4 Responses to Welcome: The Priceless Gifts of Hospitality

  1. terryshen says:

    Great point, Sirena. And to that spirit I would add – gratitude toward your guests’ presence.

  2. Eileen says:

    This is beautiful and true. I love the Nouwen quote. One of my most favorite writers. Also, a fan of Kathleen Norris. Hospitality is a way of being in the world. It’s noticing other people and treating them as valuable. I love having guests, but more and more just two or at the most four is all I can manage and still enjoy them. And when our Church has Holy Week ecumenical services followed by lunch, I used to enjoy going around to refill glasses with fruit tea punch or cups with coffee, so i could connect with people one on one for at least a moment or two. Can’t always manage that anymore either. Sometimes now, hospitality has to just be a smile and eye contact. It reminds me of the beautiful witness of a woman who had been in an iron lung unable to speak for a pretty long time before recovering. She said that she finally began to feel worthwhile and want to live again when she began to see that smiling at caregivers and visitors was a ministry of hospitality. Loved this post and the memories it brought back. Thank you. Asking for Blessings of the season to come your way. Eileen

    • SirenaTales says:

      Oh, Eileen, thank you so much for your lovely blessings and for sharing your beautiful reminiscences and observations. “Hospitality…is noticing other people and treating them as valuable.” YES. Love that! Sending warmest wishes your way for a luminous and joyful Christmas and new year in 2017. Hugs, Chloe

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