I enjoy having people over to our house. I like the excuse to make a big meal (complete with dessert, of course!), bring out my fun serving dishes, maybe even buy some decorations for a fun theme. Having company over is also a great excuse to finally get around to cleaning behind the toilet, clearing that stack of junk off of the end of the dining room table, and/or power-washing the pollen off of the front porch.
I’ve been challenged lately to expand my thinking of hospitality. While the big to-do that I mentioned is fun, it’s also potentially expensive and time-consuming, and sometimes, even makes my guests feel like we want to put on a show for them rather than invite them into our real lives.
Sometimes it is nice to balance the big productions with small, intimate gestures of hospitality. Like calling up friends in the afternoon and saying, “I’m making spaghetti tonight, do you guys want to join us?” And then NOT waxing the kitchen floor before they come over. In fact, maybe I’ll even leave Abby’s toys scattered across the living room so that our friends’ baby can join in the fun.
It comes down to the question, “What do I want people to feel when they come to my home?” Do I want them to be impressed with my housekeeping and culinary skills? Sheepish for all of the trouble I’ve taken? Afraid to let their kids touch anything? Intimidated to ever reciprocate the offer? Certainly not. (On the flip side- I do not want them to feel disgusted, embarrassed, or overwhelmed–so some level of order and cleanliness is appropriate.)
Mainly, I want friends to feel at home when they come over. So that means it’s okay when my guests arrive and I’m still stirring the pot of sauce, or there are some dirty pans in the sink, or there is laundry on the bed (it’s probably clean, but maybe I didn’t get to finish folding it or putting it away). After all, our friends have probably have seen dirty dishes or unfolded clothes before.
I’m also learning to say “yes” when guests offer to help. Yes, you can bring a salad. Yes, you can pour some drinks. Sure, let’s knock these dishes out quickly before we go to the living room to visit. It’s worth it, even if your helpful guest starts to load the dinner plates into the dishwasher and discovers that you hid a bunch of random clutter there when you hadn’t gotten the counter cleaned off before the doorbell rang. (So, that was a little embarassing. But we had a good laugh AND I had help getting the dishes cleaned up.)
Why are we having people over anyway? It’s because we want to open ourselves up to developing and deepening friendships, and we want to create memories of good times with people we love. THAT is the point– whether we’re sticking our pinkies in the air as we sip coffee from my fine china or standing side by side at the sink, elbow-deep in dishwater.