Friday, November 4, 2016

More on Hospitality and Community {part 3}

This is part 3 of my informal series about imperfect hospitality.  Get caught up here and here.  

As we (my family, specifically, and maybe yours, too) prepare to welcome people into our home during the holiday season, it is important to remember that
 the house and the decor and the food are secondary to the people. Relationships are what hospitality is all about.  There are a few points I focus on to keep my priorities in the right place. 

  • Kids are equally as important as adults.
It is easy to focus on our adult friends and relatives and forget that the younger people they bring along matter, too.

Sometimes it is fun to invite only kids over, too. This may be kid-led, like when my kids had a group of friends over for a movie party at the end of the summer.  (They plan to do it again the weekend before Thanksgiving--with even more kids this time-- 13, or possibly 17, kids, instead of 12!)

Other times we invite whole families, making sure the kids feel welcome, too, whether with their own table or a special dessert or activity.  

Mother's Day meal (2013)

Welcoming friends' children into our home while the parents go out for a few hours alone is also hospitality.

  • The house does not need to be spotless.

It is so easy to let the house cleaning take over my brain.  I attempt to keep my house moderately clean all the time so spontaneous hospitality is possible, but when I have time to plan ahead, I have a hierarchy of importance.  The bathrooms come first.  (No one wants to use a dirty potty!).  Next I want the house straight and the clutter picked up.  If there is time, I vacuum and/or sweep the floor, specifically the main traffic areas.  Dusting and deeper cleaning (mirrors, wiping down the refrigerator, etc.) come last. 

Valentine's Day celebration (2009)

  • Entertaining does not need to be complicated. 
Keeping people happy and entertained can be as easy as having a good conversation. Watching a sporting event together on TV or playing a board game works as well. We've hosted more than one Survivor party of the years, too.


And though we don't want the food to take precedence over the relationships, sometimes food is the entertainment. Before they go home for the day, Brian and a single co-worker sometimes discuss what they will be eating for dinner. If a particular food gets a lot of talk, Brian tells me, and we make a point to invite his co-worker over next time we eat that particular dish. We've done chicken and dumplings, blackberry chicken, and cider beef.  We plan to do honey sriracha wings next (this recipe, substituting 4 tablespoons sriracha for the hot sauce).

  • Talk about the obvious. 
I am terrible at small talk, not because I don't like to talk, but I have a hard time initiating conversation with feeling awkward.  I like to think about a few conversation starters ahead of time-- nothing gimicky and certainly not a script-- but I consider what our guests do for a living or what I know about them.

They say that talking about the weather is boring, but almost everyone has an opinion about the heat wave or the cold snap you are currently experiencing.  Everyone has opinion about whether it will be a snowy winter or rainy spring.  Weather conversations often lead to discussions of holidays or vacations or family traditions.  It is not a bad starter topic at all!

12 cousins with Grandma-- 1 missing + 2 born since the photo was taken in 2013

When we had a group of kids over recently, some of them did not know each other.  We played a quick ice breaker that even the shyest of kids could play.  I said, "Raise your hand if you are five," and then each child who raised her hand told everyone else her name.  We continued right up the line until we got to the thirteen-year-olds. (And yes, we had each age represented!)   I wouldn't recommend playing this with adults, but it was perfect for our group.  

Part 4, which will also be the last part, will address how I Promote Hospitality Unconventionally. 

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