“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.
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.”
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….