Toward a Culture of Hospitality: Cultivating Graciousness

Happy Easter Monday!  Did you have a good Easter?  We found out on Saturday night that our grandparent-aged neighbors had no plans, so we had them join us for our Easter meal.  My kids loved having the company, and just the two extra people made it seem such much more worth it to me to pull out the china and silver.  And speaking of china and silver, I’m going to spend a few weeks talking more about hospitality.  For my previous thoughts on creating a culture of hospitality, see here.  If you have questions you’d like me to address, please leave a comment or send me an email!

cultivating graciousness

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had as I’m practiced and enjoyed hospitality over the years is learning graciousness. Hospitality is a gift, and sometimes we give gifts that are wasted or unappreciated, while sometimes we receive gifts that aren’t exactly what we wanted. I think we need to learn, both when we practice hospitality, and when we’re on the receiving end, to be gracious about the situation.

What might it look like to be a gracious host? I believe I need to do my best to bless my guests…and not take offense with their response. Over the years, I’ve prepared for parties which no one attended, planned dinners that the guests forgot, and fixed food that my company rudely refused to eat. Where I live now, the cultural norm is to bring one’s own food over to another person’s house, so I have a hard time getting people to eat my food—I even had a guest who brought her own plates! I’ll admit that my sinful response is usually immediate resentment and eye rolling about how weird people are out here. But that’s because I’ve made those incidents about ME. I can’t control how my guests treat my gift of home cooking, but I do believe that God has called me to continue to offer home cooked meals to people. I can’t force people to come over to my house, but I should keep asking, because one out of ten times, I’ll manage to ask someone who needs the blessing of a real friend who wants to share a meal together.

It’s good to keep some perspective when our feelings are hurt. Am I the only person who has ever felt rejected? No! How many times have we ignored or rejected the amazing gifts our Heavenly Father offers us? The right response when someone’s child tells you out loud that your food is gross is to smile, forgive, and forget. Perhaps you don’t need to keep preparing elaborate meals for a group that habitually flakes out on you, but that doesn’t mean you stop preparing elaborate meals altogether. Our first Christmas out here, we invited all my husband’s students over for coffee and cookies before finals week. After an hour, we realized no one was going to come. So we called another family last minute and asked if they wanted to come over to help us eat! We ended up having a delightful time with our company, even though they weren’t the guests we’d originally expected. We’ve turned cookie decorating with them into its own Christmas tradition.

While I’m all for pulling out the fine china for company who would appreciate it, and for generally trying to have a selfless attitude about hospitality, I do think we need to be wise in how we use our energy. I’ve learned that certain people just don’t mean it when they tell me they want to get our kids together, but instead of fruitlessly trying to plan play dates with them, I’m forcing myself to continue looking for friends—especially fellow outsiders—who have the time and inclination to come into my home. I’ll admit that the accountability of blogging about hospitality has kept me from throwing in the towel more than once this year!

So I’m preaching to myself as much as you, dear readers: a gracious hostess does not give up! If we are going to create a culture of hospitality in our little piece of the world, we need to choose to be gracious, no matter how countercultural that is.

Next week, I’ll talk about being a gracious guest…

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2 Responses to Toward a Culture of Hospitality: Cultivating Graciousness

  1. Emily says:

    I like this very much!
    I have also prepared an elaborate meal for no guests— but ended up inviting a neighbor who turned out to be much in need!

    These days, my hospitality is most focused on others’ kids and (sometimes) their mothers! A group which, i think, appreciates simpler food and not-so-perfect houses where kids can comfortably play. This is a huge relief to me, of course 🙂 I also find I need to cut out some of those non essential things that stress me out, espeically if they cause me to turn into a NOT so gracious host! (Brownies instead of cookies, and more energy for guests? yes please!)

    • Emily says:

      “Brownies instead of cookies, and more energy for guests” is really a great mindset here. If I take the time to make cookies and then am extra crabby for my kids or my company, I’ve sortof lost the point of making the cookies!

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