On simple hospitality

Growing up, we always had people at our house. Whether it was family or school friends, my parents were quick to invite people over for a meal (my dad’s authentic Mexican cooking is legendary). But often, it went beyond filling bellies.

People kept coming back because my parents offered more than just delicious food – they offered love, acceptance and unbelievable generosity.

I saw them welcome guests into their home that they didn’t even know because their car broke down. They opened up rooms for people to stay in. Sometimes it was temporary, like when my cousin’s brothers-in-law from France decided to visit the U.S. and needed a place to stay. Sometimes it was on a more permanent basis for friends whose home situation wasn’t the best.

They’ve been modeling simple hospitality for as long as I can remember.

I shared a few months ago that the thing I loved about moving out of our bus was the many chances we’ve had for practicing hospitality. I wasn’t too keen on moving out in the first place and my hope was that our new house would at least give us opportunities to host guests in our home.

And it has. But not in the way I expected.

When we moved, I envisioned dinner parties, with guests talking in our cozy, well-decorated living room (I picked up The Nesting Place right before we moved and it may have inspired my daydreams) before enjoying a meal at our farmhouse table topped with a few perfectly pulled-off Pinterest projects.

I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen.

What has happened, though, has been even better (though I do have a vision of a fun dinner party for my birthday). Instead, we often find ourselves practicing hospitality in more simple, intimate ways that don’t end up on Instagram.

We’ve been following my parents’ model of just letting people know they’re welcome. Anytime.

Since we’ve moved in, we’ve sipped microbrews with friends and played countless games of Settlers of Catan. My dear neighbor drops in for coffee or tea a few times a week when my house is far from spotless. And we’ve filled some bellies, too, often with simple bowls of beans and rice topped with my dad’s homemade salsa.

What I’ve learned is that hospitality isn’t about the state of my home or complexity of my meals. It’s about showing people I love them in simple ways. With coffee. Or beer. Or by allowing them into my mess so they can see that perfection isn’t a prerequisite to being loved by our family – not for us, not for them.

It means welcoming people in, no matter what.

How do you practice simple hospitality?

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17 Comments

  1. rachael

    I suck at this. I really want my house to be like this but I don’t even know where to start. i think it’s the person too, like, I can make my house really comfortable, warm and welcoming, and offer beer and coffee but maybe my personality is the missing ingredient. Something to work on.

    • Maggie

      Rachael,

      I think you can offer simple hospitality in a different way, it does not have to be like Nina’s. I think if you have a nice spot to sit down somewhere in your home and just relax and be yourself that is all it takes to be welcoming. I think the most important ingredient is just to truly relax, be in the moment and not worry. The rest will follow.

      Maggie

    • Jennifer

      I hear ya!

      My day is scattered and long, my friends aren’t close by (same city doesn’t mean wi/drop by distance), and people stay in their family units.

      I also think it’s just me. I don’t even attempt to have a perfect home (borderline disaster zone) but I miss the “hanging out” of my 20s. I used to love giving dinner parties – and people like coming to them.

      Plus, being a single working mom makes me crave the small social contact even more as there is no one to just “talk to” at home.

      As you say though – something to work on.

  2. Teacher

    I wish we were neighbors so I could have your family over for impromptu snacks and games! I just moved to a new area of our town in order to practice this since there are a lot of children in our new neighborhood.

    I noticed that you mentioned how your parents practiced hospitality by allowing people to stay in your home on longer basises when their living situations were less than ideal. As a child of parents who did this, I must caution anyone who would like to practice this kind of radical hospitality to only do so after extensive counsel of trusted friends and tons of prayer and reflection and most importantly, discussion with the family members in that household who will be affected. My parents kicked me out of my bedroom and made me sleep on the couch, sometimes for a year at a time (and this happened over and over) in order to house people in our home. I spent years in therapy dealing with the aftermath of that decision on my parents’ part. As a child, I believe you should have the right to feel as if you are at the top of your parents’ priority list and that your home is a safe place where you belong, you are loved and your interests are being looked-out for. Having long term guests like that took my parents’ attention away from their own children. My mother once showed up at a musical that I was in. She was shocked to realize that I was the female lead in that musical, a coveted role in my high school. She had been so busy and wrapped up in her long-term guests in the preceding months that she didn’t pay any attention to what I was saying and didn’t even realize that such an important thing was happening in my life. She didn’t know what I majored in while I was in college because during that time, she was taking care of long-term guests and my presence at home (I lived at home in college) was on her periphery.

    I know this is a long comment but what I want to do is caution anyone who is considering opening their home in a radical act of hospitality. It is important to consider who else is living in the home and how you will be splitting your energy and attention. I know that in my own home, my children are number one and while it is important to perform corporal works of mercy, they should never come before my God-given responsibility of caring for the children entrusted to me.

    • Okiemom

      I love most of these ideas. But, I too have to agree with Teacher.

    • Nina Nelson

      That’s a great point, Teacher. We only had people who were very close friends, and we had a guest room, so nobody was forced out of their space. Mostly it was fun for us because it meant more time with our friends.

    • Anelia

      This is a very useful insight. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Angela @ Setting My Intention

    i really needed to hear this! Instead of waiting to practice hospitality until my house is completely clear or I have all the ingredients for a perfect dinner I need to welcome people in. I particularly love the quote “hospitality isn’t about the state of my home or complexity of my meals.”

  4. kariane

    I love this. Hospitality isn’t about having the perfect home, it’s about welcoming people and being open and loving to those you encounter. Letting people know that they’re welcome at any time, and that you’ll stop what you’re doing to make a moment for them, is the key. I love being a part of a community like this, but I think it’s more and more difficult to promote and to engage in as so many people are so busy and scheduled all the time. It takes breathing room in your life and in the lives of your friends to allow this kind of hospitality to happen. But I think it’s so worth trying to do.

  5. joanna

    I don’t do dinner parties, but I do love casual impromptu spontaneous get togethers. I have no problem striving for perfection. Its just not me. I do wish friends would gather more in an unplanned fashion. I miss the drop-in!

  6. Anna @ Feminine Adventures

    LOVE this! We lived in a tiny duplex for four years while my husband was in school. Not only was it tiny, it was old, drab, and had a roach problem. We did our best to make it home-y (and get rid of the roaches), but looking back I can scarcely believe how many lovely, simple times we had with friends, neighbors and visiting family in that tiny home. There is something really freeing about imperfect situations. It was freeing to know that if folks kept visiting it’s because of love and friendship, not Pinterest-worthy decor!

    After school we moved into a larger home (not big, but more than 650 square feet!) In some ways it’s harder to practice such simple openness now, but it’s still my hope and prayer!

  7. Maggie

    Honestly, one of the most freeing things has been learning that people are just as happy when I say, “come over, let’s order pizza.” I have a small house and entertaining that involves meal prep has always stymied me. But everyone likes pizza and I’m not sure why it took me so long to just focus on the togetherness and less so on the preparing meal-ness.

  8. Kim Hilbert

    This is the way my family works. Unfortunately, we’ve all moved away to different states so it doesn’t happen as often anymore. I’ve never been to a ‘dinner party’. I don’t think I’d be comfortable there. We’re very simple.

  9. Char

    I think that hospitality is a gift that you can practice even when you don’t open up your home. My dear friend has this amazing gift and she shows it simply by including others–whether it is inviting a few families to join them at the pizza parlor, a play day and picnic at the park or by opening her home. She reaches out to new faces in our school and includes them. And simple and relaxed is great–we have a fire pit in our backyard and love to have friends over to make s’mores! It is about the fellowship and building relationships–which is the best part, even though I love to do the Martha Stewart stuff too!

  10. Rebecca

    Love this post and the interesting comments. Hospitality has so many forms…giving up on perfect has been important for me. 🙂

  11. Megan Knight

    This is an AMAZING article and so true!!!! It’s what I’ve been learning from Sally Clarkson’s book the Lifegiving Home. Thanks for posting this.

    • Nina Nelson

      You’re welcome!

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