In this fourth lesson on hospitality, I would like to cover the topic of hospitality to guests. If you remember from our first lesson, I differentiated between visitors and guests in this manner: guest are those who come to your home for a party, get-together, tea, or other such short gathering and visitors are those who come to your house to stay for an extended length of time (several days to several months). For this lesson, I want to talk about people who visit for short periods of time.
My sister, cousin, and I have always been a little bit obsessed with the British. We love the country, the traditions, their tv shows, and the Queen. However, I think our favorite thing is teatime. Taking tea used to also be an American tradition that seems to have, unfortunately, fallen by the wayside in the last 100 years. Calling on your neighbors for tea was a great tradition that I personally would love to see revived.
What is so special about teatime? Well, other than the muffins (and other great food) that can be partaken of, teatime is about relaxing and unwinding. It is about taking a break and enjoying the company of family and friends. It gives you a chance to show another person that, at that moment, what they have to say is the most important thing in the world.
Recently my cousin directed me to a podcast called “Speaking with Joy”. It is by a lady from the UK and one of her episodes was devoted entirely to how to make a good cup of tea and why you should. I loved it! I really liked what she had to say about the importance of taking a moment each day for tea for yourself. This same concept can be applied to hospitality to your guests.
When I first moved to Nevada, I did not know anyone except my new husband. This was very, very difficult for me. I had moved from Idaho, where I was surrounded by a community of fellow Army servicemen and women. I always had someone to talk to and friends to hang out with. It was difficult for me to leave the Army, leave my home, and leave my whole life.
My husband’s solution was, “Make new friends. Invite people over.” Humm, yea, well, about that… I am picky with my friends and it isn’t easy to make new ones. When I say I am picky, I don’t mean I am a snob. I have just been around the world (literally) a time or two and, when you move that much, you learn to be picky with who you get to know. It isn’t easy saying goodbye, so you make it worth your while.
After I had been here for about six months, I decided to have a tea party. That’s right. A good, old fashioned tea party. I invited every lady I had met in those six months (about 10 of them) and we actually had a really good time. By the next year, I had met many more people and decided to try it again. It went okay. But these were not the nice friendships I had imagined. So, I struggled along for a couple of years.
Then one day I met someone who was new to town. I decided to invite her over for tea, a real sit down, one-on-one teatime. We had a great talk. Then several months later, I met another lady who was new in town. The same thing. A few weeks later, I realized that one of the ladies at church lived behind me. I invited her over for tea. We were acquainted and I found out she was also new in town.
Having people over for tea on an individual basis allowed me to really get to know them. We could talk and I could find out their stories. Most of the time, they were new to town and struggling with the same issues that I had struggled with. Here I was, sitting at home, feeling sorry for myself and there were people all around me also wishing for a friend.
Showing Hospitality to Guests
Each guest you have in your home will be different and so the things you do, where you sit, and what you talk about will be different. However, there are a few things that remain the same to show hospitality to all guests. Let’s talk about a few ways to make a guest feel comfortable in your home.
Clean from a Different Viewpoint
One of the most important things that make people feel good in your home is cleanliness. Then they can feel comfortable and enjoy their visit. Nobody feels comfortable in a messy house. You want your guest to feel peaceful in your home.
Since we still live in our house, and obviously it cannot be perfect all the time, when I know someone is coming over, I go sit down in the places where they may sit.
Then I look around the house from that point of view and clean what might look bad. As humans, we develop habits and often sit in the same place in our homes. We often do not see things from a different viewpoint.
I remember as a teenager working for a lady cleaning her house. One day, she asked me to come sit down by her on the couch, which was unusual, and then asked me what I saw. I was mortified by the dust and grossness that had escaped my view under the other chairs.
However, she laughed because she said it proved I never set down when I was supposed to be working, but I never forget the lesson of looking at things from a different perspective occasionally.
Before someone comes over, take a moment to look around the house and tidy up. This is one of the best ways to show hospitality to your guests. Also, take a peek in your guest bathroom to make sure it looks decent. You don’t want to be embarrassed by a guest sitting on a dirty toilet!
Provide a Listening Ear
When you do have a guest over for tea or a meal, it is important to give them attention. Listen to what they have to say. Unless they bring it up, save your own drama and problems for another time. After all, you want your guest to feel peace in your home. Sit down and give them your undivided attention.
Try to limit distractions from kids or pets. I struggle with this one sometimes since I currently have a two-year-old who is still trying to figure out that the world does not revolve around his needs. I do try to use this as an opportunity to teach him manners.
Don’t clean while guests are present
I grew up in the Midwest where you (the guest) were supposed to help “rid up the kitchen” after a meal. However, many people, myself included, have a certain way of doing things and we really do not mind if guests do not help. After a meal, and the table is cleared, it is okay to leave the kitchen until later. Guests would prefer that you sit down and socialized instead of running around trying to clean.
Now, occasionally a close friend or family member comes for the express purpose of helping you with something (i.e. canning, painting, organizing). In these cases, make sure you are doing the majority of the work and your guest is in a helper role. Also, be sure and provide drinks and snacks as a way to say, “Thank you”. Don’t forget to send them a nice note later!
Advice from Others
I asked some of my readers to share how they show hospitality to guests. Here are a few things that others do.
“If I’m having someone over for a meal first of all I ask about food allergies. Then I ask if they have some major food dislikes because I don’t want to make them something they don’t like. If there are allergies, I have to get creative sometimes. If not and no dislikes, I like to make chicken enchiladas with Mexican rice (my own recipe) and refried beans or spaghetti, salad, and breadsticks.
I don’t like to skimp on food and will spend the money (in PNG) even if it’s more than I want to spend because I see it as a ministry and giving back to my missionary co-workers. I do love having people over, but it never seems to go exactly as planned. When they are there, I always feel nervous and feel I’ve not gotten it all right and tend to make apologies for things even when they think everything is great!Christy (my sister)
“I agree with Christy. I do the same about food allergies and if they don’t like some things. Also, I try to make my company feel special by waiting on them. Cheesecake is always on the menu.”Shari
“We really enjoy having people over for dinner. I always cook something yummy and try to make an extra good dessert. When we have friends with kids, we love doing make your own pizza with homemade crust. Do fun and everyone enjoys it.”Ashlie (Usborne Books Consultant)
“I try to make a tasty meal if entertaining guests. The special food I like to make: homemade hot rolls from fresh ground flour. It is a lot of effort for me because I am an extreme introvert, and afterward, I generally need to recharge. But I know it’s good for me to interact also.”Julie
Abraham’s Three Visitors (Genesis 18)
When I think of hospitality in the Bible, Abraham usually comes to mind. He seemed to always be inviting people into his home. He even took his nephew and his family in for a period of time, which was not easy, as we read.
For this lesson, I want to talk about a particular instance of Abraham’s hospitality. One day he was sitting in the doorway of his tent and he sees three men approach. Verses 2-8 describes what he did when he saw them. Take a moment and read the verses.
I found it interesting that the first thing he said to them was, “Do not pass your servant by.” It was almost like he would be offended if they DID NOT come in and visit. Even though it was the “heat of the day” and he was taking a rest, he still wanted them to come in and sit down so he could talk to them.
This became a very important conversation. This is the time that the visitors informed him that he and Sarah would have a son. What would have happened if Abraham had thought, “It is too hot! I do not feel like having company” and had let the men walk on by. Would he have gotten his long-desired son?
Instead, Abraham had the right idea! He knew how important it was to entertain guests in his house. He rose up and went out of his way to make his guests comfortable.
Whether you chose to revive teatime or give a full-on meal, like Abraham, it is important to show hospitality to guests. Hospitality shows others that we care but it also helps us build connections. How do you show hospitality to guests? Comment below with any ideas that you may have.