Hospitality is more than having guests in your home. A hospitable home is one that is warm and welcoming. It is one where the words ‘Come on in – I’m so glad you’re here!’ are genuine. It is a home that reflects our very own heart. It brings comfort, happiness, and a sense of coming home to anyone who walks through the door, whether they are a guest or the family who lives there.
But knowing what it is and how to offer it may be two different things. Listen in to learn a few ways you can offer hospitality to your guests, your family, and even in the aisle of a grocery store!
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Hospitality is a gift from the heart. It isn’t fancy or expensive, nor is it confining. Rather than an elaborate meal, it is a simple bowl of soup. It’s a genuine expression of welcome. When we offer hospitality, we share what we have to give – a meal, a heart that hears, encouragement, support, and a laugh or two. What we are truly offering others is a piece of ourselves. But just how, exactly, do we express hospitality?
We start with a Genuine Smile. You want to set your guest at ease from the very beginning. More than anything, having a home that is warm and welcoming begins with you. Smile when you open the door, and let that smile be real. If possible, offer something to drink, and maybe a plate of fresh-baked cookies, or a piece of cake.
One thing that can keep you from being hospitable is those pesky distractions, and our minds are the biggest distraction we have. Even when we have a guest, our thoughts tend to wander to our never-ending agenda. We focus on what we should be doing, or even on our own problems and joys. Instead of focusing inward, learn the art of turning off your mind for a little while so you can truly focus on your guest.
There are two words in the English language that seem very similar but can be drastic opposites at the same time. Those words are ‘Look’ and ‘See’. It’s one thing to look at a person. It is a totally different thing to truly see them. Being hospitable means to truly see your guest.
Don’t just look at their new hairstyle or clothes. Observe their body language. Do they appear excited about something? Is there sadness, joy, or confusion in their eyes? They may not display their feelings through facial expressions, but their overall body language will probably give them away.
Are you trying to determine if your guest is interested in you or bored to tears? Observe their hands and arms. If they have an elbow propped on the table and have their chin in the palm of their hand, they are more than likely paying attention to you. However, if both elbows are on the table and both hands are supporting their head, it may be time to change the subject, because boredom is either beginning to set in, or already has.
Another key to hospitality is learning to listen. Focus on your guest. Don’t keep looking at the clock or monopolize the conversation. Even if they have asked you a question that requires a lengthy answer, stop periodically, and allow them to respond in some way. If you are in the middle of washing dishes when they arrive, dry your hands. The dishes can wait. If they are a friend, say something such as “Just let me finish these last few dishes. And while I do, tell me how you’ve been doing.” Then settle them close by at the table and visit while you work. Frequently stop and turn towards them. This reflects your interest in them and what they are saying.
However, if the conversation turns serious or personal, as in a friend in crisis, those dishes really can wait. Go sit down with them and open not only your literal ears, but also the ears of your heart.
When you offer hospitality, it helps to know your guest. With friends we have known forever, it’s easy to pick and choose menus, conversation topics and drink preferences. You know Sally is cold-natured, so you keep a throw handy for her to wrap up in during a visit. Donna, on the other hand, is hot-natured, so you turn the heat down and use that throw yourself.
It’s a bit more difficult with new people. But with time, observation, and maybe a few questions, you can easily learn their likes and dislikes. Keep a ‘Guest Book’ handy. This isn’t the type people sign when they walk in the door. Instead, it is a notebook you keep for your own reference. In it, each guest should have a page. List out their likes, dislikes, favorites, and even allergies. This way, each time they visit, you can create a more comfortable atmosphere.
Hospitality isn’t just for the adults in the home. It also extends to the children. If you have children in the home, teach them how to be hospitable as well. Sharing and kindness are the first things a child should learn.
If you don’t have children, but your friends do, make your home welcoming for the little ones. Keep a box handy that has toys, games, books, puzzles, or other things that may help entertain them. Small crafting supplies will usually keep children occupied for a while. Add a box of colors, a couple of coloring books and blank paper in the box as well.
Keep a blanket with the box to lay on the floor in the same room you and your friend are in. This way you can keep an eye on them during the visit.
Hospitality isn’t just about entertaining your guests. Instead, it begins before they even knock on the door. Being hospitable starts with cleaning your home. A dirty house can be uncomfortable for some and can make you squirm when someone drops in unannounced for a visit. At the same time, it doesn’t have to be spotless. A sterile, spotlessly clean home can be just as unsettling as one that is layered in dust, dirt, and a sink full of dirty dishes.
Your home should also smell clean. However, even a clean home can smell stale. Eliminate cooking odors as soon as possible. There is one exception to this – trying to eliminate cooking odors doesn’t count if it is the aroma of fresh baked goodies, bread, or pot of soup simmering on the stove.) Open your windows from time to time to allow stale air to escape, and fresh air to enter.
There are times when hospitality extends to longer than just an hour or two. In some cases, we need to offer it to overnight or weekend guests. If this is the case, there are a few things you can do to make their stay more enjoyable.
Take the time to put fresh sheets (preferably some that have been line-dried) on the bed. Add an extra blanket on a nearby stool or across the foot of the bed.
Place a dish filled with a favorite individually wrapped candy on the nightstand. If your guest is on a diet or diabetic, use a sugar-free version.
Invest in single use toiletries and put them in a basket. If you have male and female guests, have one for both.
Place a vase of fresh flowers in the room.
Use a basket or crate and fill it with magazines, books, or an up-to-date copy of the local newspaper.
Buy a pitcher and glass set designed for a bedside table. I found a small pitcher and matching plastic glasses at the Dollar Store, when the spring/summer inventory came in one year. I snapped them up in four different colors just for this purpose.
If your guests will be sightseeing on their own, add brochures to local events in the basket, as well as a map of the area.
If possible, offer some type of ‘white noise’. Either a radio, or a wind machine, similar to those used in counseling offices will dull the noises in the other rooms.
There is another side of hospitality that we rarely, if ever, consider. We often forget that it isn’t just guests and strangers who should receive it. We should also practice Hospitality with our family. In fact, this is the place where we practice most, so we feel confident in extending it to others.
This doesn’t mean we treat them like guests in their own home. Instead, it is offering our family the same considerations as we would a visitor. Some of these considerations include kindness, fair play, self-control, nourishment, and mentorship. Being hospitable to your family also includes teaching them a strong work ethic, how to serve and teach others, and the importance of setting a good example.
But you can also extend your family hospitality by spending time with them just as you would a guest. Treat your family to some refreshments, and just visit with them for a few moments. You can do this as a group or on an individual basis. In the process, you will be telling them they are important to you, and you enjoy their company.
When these things are taught and lived within the home, it is easier for them to be put into practice not only when you have visitors, but outside the home as well.
I’ll bet you never thought that hospitality extends further than your screen door, did you? But if you think about it, hospitality is more than just a cup of coffee and a plate of cookies. It’s about that warm smile we talked about earlier. It’s about having a countenance of compassion, understanding, and kindness. You can be hospitable in the aisle of a grocery store just as easily as you can sitting at your kitchen table.
Hospitality really is more than having guests in your home. A hospitable heart is one that is warm and welcoming. It is one where the words ‘Come on in – I’m so glad you’re here!’ are genuine. It is a home that reflects our very own heart. It brings comfort, happiness, and a sense of coming home to anyone who walks through the door, whether they are a guest or the family who lives there.
In this world of constant busyness, maybe it’s time to relearn the art of hospitality. After all, everyone needs a break to slow down. And if there is a cup of coffee and a plate of cookies in the bargain, it’s all the better!
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