Once upon a time, on a continent far, far away, I lived out a part of me that has been fairly covert since coming to America. My small apartment in Africa was often a hub of activity. Hospitality was a glove my hand slipped into easily.
Newly arrived staff came over for a meal as they were gaining their bearings. Friends crashed on my futon for days while their places dried out from burst pipes. Department meetings were conducted over noon meals. It wasn’t shocking to arrive home to find a student stealing a few quiet moments in my apartment or to discover a Peace Corps friend arrived early for a weekend visit. Time, food, and people always seemed to be in abundance at my place.
And then I moved to Colorado. My relationships were scattered rather than concentrated. When I finally got my own place, renovation was the name of the game. As life patterns settled and the pace picked up, hospitality withered.
From time to time I hosted people in my house, but it was the exception not the rule. I lamented the loss of my home as a place of hospitality as I’d known it in Africa. I bought in to the idea that my house needed to be neat and tidy in order to invite people over—especially people I don’t know well.
If you know anything about me, you know “neat and tidy” are not my default modes.
The last two weeks have changed all that. It started with my interns wanting to watch videos. They came over Sunday night. We made guacamole and another dip, watched a movie while we ate lots of chips and dips, and talked for hours. Tuesday night they came over for dinner and a movie with a few more friends who’d helped with my programs this summer. We basically repeated the process again Wednesday.
A few days later one of my friends came to visit and base out of my house for a week. More and more friends came. We grilled. We went to fun restaurants and spent hours hanging out at my house and laughing with even more friends.
Slowly (but rather suddenly) I realized I was more like me than I’d been in years.
I’ve decided hospitality is more about inviting people into your mess than into an illusion of perfection. There may be things out of place, a dishwasher that needs to be emptied, and a stack of magazines waiting to be read, but there also will be laughter, good food and an enthusiastic welcome.
Let me know when you’re coming to visit!
photo courtesy of susanaudrey