Who has time to practice hospitality these days? Not me. Well, maybe I do, but life makes it hard to get in the mood. These hacks will help celebrate Eat Better, Eat Together Month with friends and acquaintances.
Uh-Oh! I Forgot!
“Terry and his crew will get here tomorrow afternoon,” I overheard Pedro say to a staff member after faculty meeting.
Instead of returning to my classroom to grade papers, I stayed in the conference room and waited for Pedro to finish his conversation. When he headed out the door, I called out to him, “Wait a second!” He turned around and I said, “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but did I hear you say Terry and his film crew would be here tomorrow?”
“Um…will he be staying with us, and we’ll feed him and the crew while they’re here?”
“Oh. This is the first I’ve heard of it.”
“Uh-oh! I must have forgotten to tell you,” he said with an apologetic grimace. “Will you be able to prepare suppers? I’ll make breakfasts, and they’ll eat in the cafeteria for lunch.”
“Sure,” I said, with more enthusiasm than I felt. “How many people will he bring with him?”
“Just two,” Pedro said. A bell rang. “I have a meeting now. You sure it’s ok? I can’t believe I didn’t tell you they were coming.”
“No worries,” I said with a shrug and headed out the door after him. I did a mental inventory of the contents of our refrigerator and freezer and constructed a shopping list. Fortunately, I’ve learned about the need to practice hospitality—even if I didn’t feel prepared.
Why Bother to Practice Hospitality?
In today’s busy world, why bother to practice hospitality? Terry and his film crew could have eaten all their meals in the cafeteria. We could have taken them out to eat each night. Pedro and I both work full-time, and he often works extra hours during the school year when demands for his attention pile up.
I have two choices. Complain or adapt. I choose to adapt because I know I have a mandate, as a Christian, to practice hospitality. In Matthew 25:38, Jesus talks about the final judgment and how those who follow him will practice hospitality to strangers. Jesus talks about offering hospitality to those who work for him in Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7.
Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2 remind Christians to practice hospitality—eagerly, and even with strangers. As an introvert, I find it difficult to practice hospitality unless I’ve had adequate time to mentally prepare. I like knowing weeks, months, or years in advance. Just kidding about the years in advance. Maybe.
Occasionally I’ll surprise myself and spontaneously invite someone over. On further thought, this has only happened once or twice. When I ‘spontaneously’ practice hospitality, I’ve thought about it for several days before I bring it up to my husband. This gives me time to prepare mentally, clean the house, have food ready to prepare (or prepared ahead of time), but change my mind if I don’t feel like I have the emotional bandwidth to hang out with people.
Can an Introvert Practice Spontaneous Hospitality?
When I spontaneously invite someone over for real, it’s usually someone I already know well. Pedro and I have this unwritten agreement—I take care of the food, and he takes care of the people. It works well for us. I don’t have to worry about food and the awkward getting-to-know-you stuff at the same time. With people I know already, I feel less pressure.
But I’ve learned to practice hospitality with strangers more often (or not feel disgruntled with Pedro spontaneously invites someone over).
These hacks will help you, whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert, practice hospitality even when life makes it hard.Even introverts can practice hospitality! Find out how! #practicehospitality #introvert Click To Tweet
1. Keep Common Areas Tidy
Now that our girls have fledged and become homeowners of their own, we have no excuse to not have tidy common areas. Toys no longer litter the floors at odd hours of the day and night. But even when the four of us occupied our home, we made sure everyone picked their things up each evening before supper.
I keep the areas a guest would see picked up (or within minutes of looking clean) as often as possible. After our recent week of outdoor school and a four-day trip to Montana, I struggled to get everything put away.
The day we had guests over, I realized I couldn’t access our storage room in the basement because a volunteer occupied the guest room containing our storage closet. Yes, I live in a house with guest rooms in the basement and I don’t control or monitor the comings and goings of guests.
I stacked everything up neatly at the top of the stairs—which happen to come out in our dining room—and hoped no one would notice the 14 crates of outdoor school supplies lining the walls.
2. Don’t Apologize—People Probably Aren’t Judging
When our guests came over the following evening, I waited until we sat down at the table before I started apologizing. “Don’t mind the crates and stuff stacked all over,” I said. “I haven’t had an opportunity to transfer it all to storage.”
“We hadn’t even noticed,” one of the guests assured me.
Truthfully, my bringing it up brought something to their attention they would have normally overlooked. The you-need-to-have-a-pristine-house-like-Martha-Stewart’s myth trips me up all the time. No one really cares if my house doesn’t look like it came from the pages of a magazine.
If my crockery doesn’t coordinate with my cloth napkins, no one keeps score. No one knows I only dust every few months (well, now you do), and no one cares. I can practice hospitality without wearing myself out with housecleaning.
Of course, if you have high personal standards but no energy to keep them, you still have options. A friend of ours practiced hospitality at a local restaurant. She would invite friends out to eat and pick up the tab. Or, if you’d rather entertain in your own home, you can hire someone to do your deep cleaning for you.
Whatever the case, I know I don’t enter other people’s homes with the expectation of perfect cleanliness and tidiness. I doubt other people do, either.
3. Keep Something in the Freezer
When we first got married, I didn’t know how to cook for two. I only knew how to cook for 50. From the age of 14 or so, I worked for my mom, who had a catering business, or I worked in large cafeterias. The first time I doubled a recipe as a new bride, Pedro couldn’t understand why we ate the same thing for weeks.
I finally learned to prepare large amounts of food—and freeze most of it to bake or reheat later. If I go to the trouble to make a casserole, I just double or triple the recipe. I usually freeze some in a tinfoil pan, some in smaller casserole dishes, and prepare a regular-sized casserole dish for the meal at hand.
If someone at church starts a meal train, I can contribute the dish in the tinfoil pan and not have to burden the recipient with getting a dish back to me. Sometimes, I feel like attending potlucks after church, and I always have a dish on hand to contribute. And if my husband forgets to tell me we’ll have company for a few days, I have at least the first meal covered.
The smaller frozen dishes make it easy to pull out something healthy for just the two of us.
4. Have Hospitality Items on Hand
I try to keep juice in the cupboard (Pedro and I rarely drink it), along with a liter of ginger ale. If we have unexpected company, I can mix the two and have a sparkling beverage. Likewise, I keep a few half-gallons of ice cream in the freezer for instant dessert options.
In today’s health-conscious, gluten-free, lactose intolerant, vegetarian, and vegan world, I’ve learned to keep a quart of soy milk and a quart of almond milk on hand, too. For desserts, I have sorbet and coconut or cashew ice cream in the freezer.
You can practice hospitality by inquiring about your guest’s dietary preferences or needs before they come over. If you’ve never cooked vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free before, don’t panic. You can prepare tasty meals without blowing your grocery budget or taking a special cooking class. All the recipes on my website are vegetarian and many are vegan as well as gluten-free.
5. Clean the Bathroom First
If you have guests coming over unexpectedly, clean the bathroom first. Change the hand towels, light a good-smelling candle, scrub the toilet, wipe down the mirror and the sink, and make sure the counter is clear. You can accomplish this in five minutes. Nothing says ‘clean house’ like a clean bathroom with a pleasant smell.
If you have leftover time, straighten the pillows on the couch and shove all the toys into a box. Shake out the rugs, run the vacuum over the most highly trafficked areas, and sweep the kitchen. Don’t sweat the rest.
6. Crate the Dogs, Corral the Cats
I love dogs—just not when they jump up on me, sniff my crotch, or bark incessantly. Assess your guest’s attitude about dogs, cats, and pets in general before they come over. Some people suffer from allergies, others have deep fears of snakes. Yes, snakes. Our daughter always had a pet snake in the house growing up. She kept them in her room unless someone wanted to see them.
Although Spot, Fluffy, and Hiss may be valued members of your family, not everyone will feel the same. If you don’t have an opportunity to talk to your guests beforehand, have a containment plan. Your pets won’t suffer if they spend time in a crate or behind a closed bedroom door until you can ensure your guests feel comfortable around them.
Do take time to introduce your pets to your guests and lay out any ground rules. Countless children have sustained injuries from ‘trusted family pets’ because no one explained the pet’s boundaries. Pets have boundaries, too.
7. Brush Up on Table Talk
Consider having a one conversation meal when you invite guests over. Let guests know the purpose and ground rules before they sit down at the table. If only one conversation happens at a time, we will listen better and learn more. Everyone will have a chance to talk and to express his or her ideas.
It’s How You Make People Feel, Not the Perfection of Your House That Matters
People care more about how you make them feel than they do about the state of your house or the food you serve. I’ve fallen into the trap of worrying more about how I will feel, and it always leads to excuses and avoidance.
Self-knowledge helps, too. Once I understood what makes me tick as an introvert, it got easier to iron out ideas on how to practice hospitality with my husband—an extrovert. I do what I can to make others feel welcome, whether it’s asking about their food preferences, pet allergies, or their cultural customs when visiting.
If I turn a blind eye to my undusted bookshelves and focus on my guests, instead, I know I can practice hospitality even if life seems too busy or too hard.
What hacks do you have for practicing hospitality?