As I set a beautiful table and prepared to serve the perfect meal, my husband asked, "Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Could you get the water glasses for me?" I responded. But I forgot that John and I speak two different languages when it comes to hospitality and entertaining. To me a "water glass" means a cobalt blue goblet to match the blue and white place settings. To my husband, it means a plastic cup from a fast-food restaurant—the kind he gulps water from after mowing the yard on a hot afternoon.
We don't always see eye-to-eye on whether to use candles and a lace tablecloth or paper plates and the picnic table. But I have to admit, John's approach to hospitality is closer to its true meaning than my cosmetic attempts to look hospitable. In fact, all I really need to know about hospitality I've learned from my husband.
Lesson #1: An invitation to eat is never inappropriate. One Sunday morning, while we were hurrying to get ready for church, our neighbor Jim came to the door with a beer in his hand. He asked if he could borrow our wheelbarrow.
Without giving it a second thought, John said, "Sure, but how about some breakfast first?" So he scrambled eggs and buttered four slices of toast for Jim to wash down with the beer. While our neighbor finished breakfast, John got the wheelbarrow and pushed it across the street. That kind of hospitality enabled my husband to build a relationship with Jim that has led to discussions about why John goes to church on Sunday rather than staying home to watch football or do yard work.
Lesson #2: No one is a stranger after you say "hi." John befriends every person who crosses his path. I kid him about it because he once brought complete strangers into our house to show them exactly how pregnant I was. "There she is," he announced, pointing at me as if I were a beached whale. They nodded and smiled as if to say, "Yes, I see what you mean."
I confess, welcoming anyone into my home, especially strangers, is one of my greatest challenges. My heart rate increases when there's an unexpected knock at the door. And if my husband calls to say he's bringing someone home for dinner, I approach panic-attack mode. But I'm learning that hospitality doesn't have to revolve around a gala event. In fact, friendliness has much to do with a hospitable heart. It's a symbolic act of "leaving the door open" to other visits and deeper conversations.
Lesson #3: Everyone has worth. With a car in the repair shop, I picked John up at his office. As we inched along toward the freeway, a homeless man in a dirty blue overcoat approached the car to peddle his newspapers. Naturally, John rolled down the window. I nervously eyed the traffic light hoping it would turn green. No such luck. John smiled, handed the man a couple of dollars and took his paper.