I was talking to a friend today, and the topic of hospitality came up. She told me that I have the “gift” of hospitality. I told her that I am not sure that it is a “gift”, rather something that I observed in my mother.
Hospitality comes down to “other mindedness,“ or thinking more of another’s comfort than I do my own. It is using your home, or whatever resources you have available to you, as a place of ministry. I thought I would just jot down some common sense things that I learned by watching my mother, and others, that as I get older realize may not be quite as common as I realized.
“To invite a person to your house is to take charge of his happiness for as long as he is under your roof.” A. Brillat-Savarin
A good hostess makes people feel at home. Even if you wish they were at home. (wink)
A good hostess is prepared. This way she can be relaxed with five or fifty guests in her home. You should never “let on” to your guests how much work went into your preparations. If you do not plan ahead, you will appear out of breath, exhausted or unorganized when your guests arrive. This makes others feel uncomfortable or like they are putting you out.
A good hostess looks out for the needs and comfort of her guest. Does your guest need a drink? To rest? Help with a child? A snack? Is what they need spiritual? Do they appear to want some counsel? Encouragement? Friendship?
All of this, of course, should be done casually. “Over-fussing” is also uncomfortable to a guest. Don’t insist that they eat, or go from one activity to the next. This is not thinking of what they want or need.
A good hostess knows how to hold a pleasant conversation. She thinks before she speaks, not vice versa.
Avoid these extremes:
- Being unnecessarily opinionated. Who really cares how strongly you feel in the end? The Bible teaches gentleness and self control. You may win the “battle” but loose out on any opportunity to minister to that person again. Nobody confides in a hot head.
- Being unable to carry on a give-and-take conversation. Because long silences are just… Plain… weird. Did I mention weird? And unfriendly.
- Being unnecessarily silly. “Did I really just say that? Out loud?” should never enter your head when you have company.(or ever, really.) You don’t need to say every little thought that pops into your head.
- Being overbearing and dominating the conversation. Interrupting and talking too much shows that you have little regard for what others are thinking and too high a regard for yourself.
- Listen well. Usually people have a lot to say and need a good listener. The Bible says that we should be “quick to hear and slow to speak.”
- Listen to learn. You can learn something from everyone. If you invite wise people into your home you will learn from their experiences. Ask meaningful questions and learn from their lives. And we can always learn how not to act from moody, unpleasant or overbearing guests.
- Learn to ask others about themselves, without prying into personal matters. A good rule of thumb is “If they want to tell you, they will.” They will confide in you if they feel comfortable. Always assume that they don’t want to confide in you if they do not bring up. Never ask about personal things such as age, weight, salary, gossip, family matters.
Your goal is to meet the need of your guests. Good manners, social skills, a sensitive heart and a willingness to serve are really the only prerequisites needed for hospitality.
What additional hints have you found worked for you? Feel free to share!