There are other wonderful examples of these tenets in the rest of our series, “Be Our Guest”. Click here to take a look!
That was Then, This is Now!
I can vividly remember the feeling of my heart beating a little faster and my breath coming a bit more quickly as I finished final preparations for our houseguests, while trying to listen for the sound of car doors coming from the driveway. “They’re here!” was the call from my younger siblings.
It wasn’t easy preparing for company in my childhood home. There were already eight native inhabitants, and since I was the first born of many, I was in charge of my own subset of household chores. But as soon as our guests arrived, we all knew we were able to put down the dusting cloths and focus on making our new arrivals feel at ease and warmly welcomed.
Depending on how well we knew the victims, uh, I mean visitors, they could count on a wide variety of entertainment choices before dinner was served. My younger brothers would usually demonstrate feats of strength, that may, or may not, include using my baby sister as a barbell. Or, maybe one of them would try to quote the latest joke they had read in the digest of “clean jokes” they’d been given for their birthday. But most assuredly, they would be given the option of hearing the latest song in three-part harmony that my mother had taught my sisters and me for church that week. Like a scene from one of those 1950s Hollywood musicals, we’d just break into song like it was normal—and it was—in the Boyd home.
Since our houseguests were otherwise occupied in the living room, I would help my mother put on the finishing touches on what was sure to be a feast of homemade delights, while one of my other sisters tried to stop the aspiring circus act before there was crying—from my baby sister, not our guests.
One never knew who might be coming to spend a few days. My father was known to bring strangers to our home that had no place else to stay. In no time we were great friends, exchanging Christmas cards for years to come. In those days, we didn’t call it hospitality. It was just life. I know that there were many other families like ours, but since there was no Facebook in those days, there was no photo evidence to prove it.
When I think back on that time, our home was simply a place to eat, sleep, and raise children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Hospitality? It came in the form of living in community with people in our small church—and beyond.
Today, I think it’s a bit tougher for singles and families alike to find their stride when it comes to true hospitality. We compare ourselves to everyone, from Martha Stewart to the faceless Pinterest poster, and conclude that we will never match up. Who’s got the time? Who has the resources? Who’s got the energy?
As a wife and homemaker for over twenty-six years, and a single woman who kept her own home for several years before that, I’d like to offer some advice. I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I’ve learned that preparing for houseguests can be stressful, especially if one of what I call “the four tenets of hospitality” isn’t exactly in your wheelhouse.
There may be more, but this is my short list:
- Cleaning: You can say so much without saying a word. Be sure that a ring around the tub doesn’t over shadow your guest’s special stay. Let them know that they’re welcome and honor them by thoroughly cleaning your home. I would recommend never skipping this step. You don’t have to rent the carpet cleaner every time you have someone in your home, but you should want the best for your guests and at least put your very best foot forward. I am not a fan of cleaning. There, I said it! However, I love a clean house! So, if you’re like me and maybe other activities are squeezing out your plans to clean, ensure that everything at least starts out clean by enlisting the help of a cleaning company or a friend that takes on cleaning jobs for a little extra money!
- Decorating: For me, this is the fun part, but if it isn’t your thing, no worries! Just think in terms of a few seasonal vignettes, i.e. pumpkins for autumn, or fresh flowers for spring. Even a personalized, printed welcome sign in their room, could be really special. You can use your own computer and printer—just insert their name(s) and then put it in a frame. Anything that shows you have given their visit some forethought.
- Cooking: Keep it simple. Communication is key. Avoid awkward situations by simply making a phone call to see what foods to avoid because of allergies, sensitivities, or preferences. I usually like to have at least one home cooked meal during their stay, like a hearty soup or stew that can be made in your slow cooker and eaten whenever you and your guests are ready. I serve it with some rustic bread, a salad, and a simple dessert. Plus, I always try to provide a selection of breakfast foods that can be eaten on the run or as a part of a sit down meal. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking everything has to be homemade; one dish can be made form scratch, while the salad and bread may be from the store. They’ll just appreciate your effort.
- Entertaining: It can be hard to think of things to do with your guests. I think if you put yourself in their shoes and looked at our city through the eyes of a tourist, you’ll find there are fun and informative things to do for people of all ages. Actually, some of the most fun I can remember having at a friend’s home, was homemade. Whether it is playing games or singing around a campfire, great memories are sure to be made.
From my point of view, the most important thing is to make your houseguests feel like their presence isn’t a bother and that you cherish the time you get to spend together. That principle will stand the test of time.