american gothic

There you are!

As you start this week, think a little bit about how you make others feel when you’re around. I’ve heard it said that as writers, we should notice how our words make readers feel, and not just how they think. So it is with the rest of life, I think. And not just with our words.

I roomed with my friend (and contributor) Robin this past weekend, and she told me something she heard a woman teach one time at a finishing school for adults. (Side note: How interesting is it that Robin has been to a finishing school?)

The woman asked this: When you walk in to a room, does your body language and your expression say, “Here I am!” Or does it say, “There you are!”

I love that.

I heard all sorts of good things this past weekend, but that one ten-second comment rattled around in my brain for days. What does my demeanor say to other people? I confess it’s not always what I mean in my head.

Don’t be overly concerned about appearances, of course, fretting over how you seem outwardly to the demise of how you’re really doing internally. But don’t ignore your demeanor, either. Do you smile at your kids? Your spouse? When you bump into an acquaintance at the store, do you look her in the eye and ask her questions about her day? And then really listen with your body, your face?

We focus so often on making our homes hospitable. But what about ourselves? I admit that I’m not the best at this. But my friend’s good word reminded me that this is a thing for me to better practice—the art of hospitality with my countenance.

Top photo: American Gothic, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Thank you for this reminder! I really need to work on this also. I think my own insecurities hold me back from being more friendly and making others feel more welcome. I always enjoy your blog. Thank you for being faithful in this space.

  2. What a lovely reminder and SO true. Am guilty of this myself.. I’m often rushed, busy and hurried and as a result, I may ignore someone, not smile too often and worse, just wait for someone to finish what they’re saying so that I may move on.. Thank you for reminding me to pause and watch how “hospitable” is my countenance.

  3. Fabulous Tsh. Thanks for sharing – definitely something to think about in the presence of others x

  4. I love that… ‘There you are!’… what a worthwhile challenge as we practice hospitality.

    I also think Robin should share some more about finishing school, I’m intrigued!

  5. this is brilliant. i’m going to be thinking about this for weeks.
    especially how it applies when i’m expecting to be alone and have unexpected guests or phone calls, and when i’m tired but still have to show up to things…
    who isn’t tired? it’s how we show love in being there that will matter in the big picture of our lives – and i do that first and foremost as i give first impressions.

  6. What a wonderful way to remember to think of other people and not ourselves. I am part of a group of women who meet monthly with a mentor to work on our character traits and the one we are working on now is thinking of other peoples needs and this is so perfect I am going to share it with them when we meet next week.

  7. Fun to see pictures of you on Jamie’s FB feed!

  8. That is a really great way to look at it, I’m going to think about this next time I walk into a room!

  9. Wow, I really need to work on this area. I am pretty quiet and always have a lot going through my mind. This could be interpreted as not caring about people.
    I think I’ll make a check-list for myself of things to work on. I can think of a few off the top of my head…put the laptop down when someone comes in the room and give them my full attention with a smile…Make one friendly call per week (to different family members/friends), etc. I know the phone call thing can sound odd to some, but I can easily go an entire year without speaking with the people I love the most; then, the only reason we do speak is because we get together on a trip. I use the phone and email for work, and so they have come to represent work to me. Anyway, I digress. There is a lot of work for me to do in this area. I love that I can pick specific items to improve, rather than just say I should be better about that.

    • I think we (and I do mean “we”—I’m this way too!) can still be our quiet selves and still have the “there you are!” mentality. Love your ideas here. 🙂 But don’t stress out about being someone you’re not. I think it’s more of an inner spirit of how we think of people, which totally sounds like that’s how you’re thinking, too.

    • Lori, we might be the same person. Maybe it’s our similar names. 😉 I have been realizing lately how much the stuff going on in my head is derailing me from really seeing people sometimes. I agree with Tsh, I need to be myself, but I need to get out of my own head sometimes, too.

  10. Oh my gosh! I love that, “There YOU are”. How awesome to make someone else feel good. I mean I try to do that, but with that on my mind, I think it can become a more outward action.

  11. Susan NC Price says:

    One of the best youth leaders I’ve ever known has the enviable talent of making anyone he’s speaking with feel like the person he’s been wanting to talk with for AGES. He concentrates his attention on you.

  12. I must say that this is something I need to work on. Being shy has often times been interpreted as aloof or snobby. Thanks for this post.

  13. Wow, there are so many applications for this admonishment! The two that come to the forefront are church and social media. It’s usually apparent to me when a pastor or worship leader is emphasizing “here I am” as opposed to leading people closer to God. And I often wonder how I can engage friends and readers in ways that are less self-aggrandizing. Thanks for spurring further reflection this week!

  14. I once had a roommate who was wonderful at “there you are!” I met her on a mission trip to Jamaica where we were working with abandoned kids with disabilities. I thought she was vain because every day she would wear nice clothes and have perfect hair and make up, while the rest of us were in cut offs and high tops. Towards the end of the trip someone asked her why she got all dolled up every day and she relied “I want to look beautiful for the children.” That was a humbling, valuable lesson for me.

  15. I feel like my whole experience of motherhood is an extended finishing school created to do just what this post says!

  16. This is a great reminder- I am extremely introverted- so there will be times I fail to make eye contact and smile….not good….thanks for the inspiration!

  17. Wowza. Isn’t that a challenge! It is really easy for me to be a “here I am” because I’m an extrovert ENFP. It can happen without any effort, really. How wonderful it will be to try to shift my focus to become more of a “There You Are!” I think with a little more intention, I can do it!

  18. I have never really thought about that before. Good reminder! Thanks.

  19. Yet another simple truth that hides in plain sight! Thinking about Allume, people come to mind who did just that. They light up the room by lighting the lamps of others, rather than just trying to outshine others.

    Thanks for that fresh perspective!

  20. I love that! My neighbor is a “there you are” person. I have always admired that in her. She doesn’t talk much about herself and wants to know about your life. Lately, I’ve noticed even her 8-year old daughter is getting to be the same way. A great trait to have! 🙂

  21. Such a wonderful reminder of how much of an impact we can make in the lives of others… even if it is just how we walk into a room. We have the power to influence so much in the world, and we really need to be aware of the impact that we have. Thanks for the inspiration!

  22. I really appreciate these words of Robin’s and couldn’t agree more. I can easily forget this in my day to day (can I simply insert: mama to child?). It was a joy to sit down and connect more with you this week. I hope the snow is just a joke and winter isn’t coming this early.

  23. It’s an interesting thought. Lately I’ve been thinking I need to work on being a bit less “there you are” with some of my friends. I have a number of friends who are perfectly content for me to always be “there you are” with them. We’ll spend two hours over coffee and I’ll leave thinking, wow, that entire conversation was about her. Again.

    Or every phone call is all about what’s going on with them while I’m really needing a friendly ear. I’m an extrovert and I think my efforts for many years to NOT dominate conversations has perhaps gone too far to the other side of the spectrum.

    SO…as with most things…I think there’s a balance. 🙂

  24. Hmm…perhaps I should do my hair more often. 😀

  25. 🙂

    Can you believe I’m only now reading this? Not for lack of the want-to; only today am I allowing myself a little blog reading time.

    Isn’t it funny how the little, casual remarks are the ones that STICK?! I mean, your “we aren’t made for fame” is one of them, too.

    Once again, this serves as reminder that words matter so we MUST choose them carefully.

    Ya just never know what you’re going to be blogged about ;).

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