The truth about hospitality

For some, it comes naturally. For others, it can be an intimidating word, conjuring up feelings of stress, inadequacy, being burdened.

Hospitality: generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests, the activity of providing food, drinks, etc. for people who are guests.

By definition, hospitality has to do with a place– welcoming others into a home, a business, an organization. And often, that’s where the stress creeps in– is my house big enough? clean enough? cute enough? 

But if we strip it down to its most basic essence, going so far as to remove the aspect of place, hospitality is really more of a position of the heart, a way of being generous and friendly, of meeting needs, of being welcoming.

I recently came across a phrase in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that I’d never noticed before, where he makes a plea to his Greek friends– friends he and his coworkers had put their whole hearts into teaching and loving.

He says to them: “Make room in your hearts for us.”

And I just fell in love with this idea of making room.

It’s essentially like what we do around the table when we invite others over to eat with us. We pull up a few extra chairs, squish a couple people in on the slightly-too-tall piano bench, grab the old high chair out of the garage, pull out the extra set of silverware.

We count the guests, and do whatever it takes to make room for everyone.

Making room My house is pretty small, so I have gotten used to finding creative ways to make room. Room for my collection of repurpose-able jars, room for the shoes of three children, room for too many (but never enough) books. Room for family and friends to gather into a “cozy” space.

I delight in the details of a well-set table, the glow of a candle, the right playlist. But I know those aren’t the real indispensables of hospitality.

The truth is, hospitality extends beyond the walls of my home.

It’s certainly not the easiest, but the simplest way to be hospitable might not involve my home at all. It might just be as simple making room in my heart.

In the same way that I can welcome people into my home, when I make room in my heart, I start welcoming people into whatever it is that I love.

I can make room in my passions and hobbies. I can connect over shared interests; I can teach a friend how to do something I love; learn something a friend likes, just to do it with her.

I can make room in my day-to-day. I can make relationships priorities, invite a friend along for errands, make below-the-surface connections on social media. I can listen and really invest in the lives of others.

Making room is a learn-as-you-go process. While it probably comes really naturally to some people, most people have to work at it and figure out what works.

When a mother is about to have a second child, sometimes she wonders, will I be able to love this child as much as I love my first? But the funny thing about the heart is that it seems to have a great elasticity built into it.

It seems like we don’t know how much our hearts can stretch until we begin to do the work of making room.

My little house will eventually reach its occupancy limit, but I’d like to think that with a little intention, the heart will indefinitely be able to keep making room.

7 Comments

  1. Matthew

    It is definitely difficult to open our hearts to some people, and yet it is perhaps among our most important work to do so… I found this lovely and inspirational, thank you and blessings.

  2. Amy Renea

    “making room” — so simple….a great mantra to repeat over and over again for our kids, our family, friends, strangers…perfect.

  3. Linda Sand

    A friend, who was about to have her fourth child, decided to reassure the first three. She sat them at the table and put a candle in front of herself and each child. She lit her candle and said, “This flame represents my love.” Then she lit the oldest child’s candle from hers and said, “When you were born I gave you all my love.” Then she lit the second child’s candle and said, “When you were born I gave you all my love.” Then she lit the third child’s candle and said, “When you were born I gave you all my love.” Then she said, “When this new baby comes I will give it all my love.” And they all looked at the candles and saw that none of the flames were reduced by her continuing to give away all her love.

    • Angela

      That’s beautiful!

  4. Christina

    I always see hospitality as a way of putting myself out there and trying to be okay with the vulnerability–people might not show up, they might glimpse the dirty underwear that I tried to hide in the basket, they might not like the food I’ve made–but being open to that to me is what it’s all about.

  5. Shelly

    I love this! As an introvert who gets totally stressed about company coming, I’ve always felt guilty because as Christians we are called to hospitality. This helps me so much!

  6. Jana

    Thanks for this reminder that hospitality does not have to be linked to a place!

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