I’m not a naturally hospitable person. I’m friendly and I can easily make conversation, but inviting people into my space doesn’t come easily. In fact, it is very difficult. It rattles me. It stresses me. I overthink everything and suddenly feel insufficient and frustrated at my lack of skill. I feel self-conscious as I view my home through a critical lens, imagining every shortcoming that an “outsider” would notice.
When we were first married, any time family visited I spent an entire day deep cleaning my home. My newlywed husband truly appreciated and understood the importance (insert sarcasm here). You know, just in case anyone would look behind the sofa for dustballs or perform a white glove test on the doorway trim, I was ready! I thought to prove that we were “real grown ups” we had to show a spotless apartment.
Having kids took away a lot of that time and cleaning energy. For real. The only household tasks that get done weekly (or more if needed) are bathrooms and floors. Floors because I hate things sticking to my bare feet, and bathrooms because I have two sons (no explanation needed there). The new system of housekeeping works for me. It fits our rhythm as a family. It also helped that we ended up living near family, and you just can’t maintain unrealistic ideals in proximity.
Now the crazy hosting beast arises whenever I invite new people into our home. We are fairly new to Madison, so this still happens a lot. As I seek community, I want to be part of the solution, so I will invite people over to our home. It has been an effective way to make new friends. Sometimes whole families come for a meal, sometimes adults only, and sometimes strangers who signed up to get to know each other at church. Each time I host someone for the first time I have to battle against my hospitality weakness.
My mind screams with these thoughts…
“Ugh! My silverware is so scratched! Other people have nicer silverware. What is the proper way to set a table? Why don’t I know this stuff? Why do I care? My silverware has never bothered me before!”
“Whoops! I forgot to get napkins. I am serving my guests with paper towels next to their plates. Classy.”
“I hope no one can smell the bathroom cleaner I used 20 minutes before they arrived. Thanks, sons.”
“Where is the one hand towel that is guest appropriate? Why do our hand towels look like old rags?”
“A cute tablecloth would look so nice set up there. I haven’t seen my tablecloths in five years. Do I still own tablecloths?”
“My decorating looks like a ‘before’ picture on HGTV.”
“We really should have planted flowers/mowed the grass/trimmed the shrubs. How in the world am I supposed to have the inside and the outside of the house presentable?”
“Why do I host things? People with nicer houses full of nice furniture and nice decorations should do all the hosting of things!”
“This sucks! Why is hosting a three hour event ruining my whole day?”
“Screw it. I have no time to cook. I forgot I had to run my son to swim practice. I am serving frozen pizza.” (I actually did this once, but I got the fancy six dollar kind). 🙂
“I am so ungrateful and shallow. Suck it up and be friendly and welcoming. Friendly and welcoming trumps visual perfection.”
The final thought is what begins to bring my heart, mind, and attitude in check. Truth is that I have been a guest in fancy and not-so-fancy homes. I can’t recall the level of cleanliness, the on or off trend decor, or even the tastiness of the food I was served. I remember how I felt when I was in their home. Was I welcomed? Did I feel included in the group? Were people glad to spend time with me? Did the conversation and the laughter flow easily? Those are the things that matter most. Hospitality is only effective when it is wrapped in love and friendship.
Therefore, I will continue to work out my hospitality muscle. I will push back my vain insecurities and open up my home again and again. I will continue to force myself to host because my last thought after having 10 people over tonight…
“That was so great. I think everyone had a really good time. It was wonderful to have people gathered getting to know each other. I’m so glad we did this. We should do this again.”
Though, I really should get a couple more guest towels…