Earlier in our marriage, my husband Dan and I owned a couple of sandwich shops. On days when I opened the store, I loved the ritual of firing up the ovens, slicing the meat, and prepping the veggies. As the aroma of fresh bread wafted through the air, I'd wonder how many more trays I should plan to bake. How many people would we welcome that day?
At the same time every morning, I'd flip the switch, and the "Open" light would beckon customers to come in. Our mission was to produce the tastiest sandwich for every single person who walked through our door. We made it a point to learn customers' names, their special preferences, and in general, to serve each person as a valued guest—not a stranger.
Though standing at a deli counter all day was physically grueling (especially the year I was pregnant with our fourth child), I never grew weary of greeting customers and helping them feel at home with us.
It's much harder for me to extend this same kind of hospitality from my own home.
Granted, no one's paying me to serve them dinner at my kitchen table. The exchange of goods for services notwithstanding, I'm just not that good at letting people into my personal space. I'm self-conscious about the spots on our carpet, and the general disorder that frequently characterizes our home.
Dan and I love to entertain. He's a chef, so I'm particularly proud of the meals he turns out, and I love to invite people over to experience his handiwork. But too often neither one of us wants to deal with the clean-up that needs to happen in order to host company. Consequently, we don't welcome people into our home, except for a few times a year—like on Christmas when my family comes for dinner.
I'm challenged by the stories by Jen Pollock Michel and Helen Coronato. Each of them offers a practical perspective on hospitality that has pushed me to reconsider the real, simple ways we could use our home to welcome strangers. Anita Lustrea, co-anchor of Moody Radio's Midday Connection, shows how giving the gifts of listening and speaking can be acts of hospitality.
You may find other creative ways to extend hospitality to family, friends, and even complete strangers this holiday season. However you welcome friends or strangers, may it be our privilege to do so joyfully!
Marian V. Liautaud