What is hospitality? A modern day definition defines hospitality as the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, and strangers. When I read that, my first thought is that I should probably get out our wedding china. But hospitality means so much more.
We stayed with friends in October. They left fresh towels on the bed and had english muffins with peanut butter for breakfast (she knows me well). That’s hospitality.
The furnace repairman just left our apartment. I offered him a cup of hot chocolate and he said that he’d love one. Repairmen always say no, don’t they? I’m glad he said yes. That’s hospitality.
Every week at church, I’m greeted by friendly faces who welcome me with a “good morning” and a smile. That’s hospitality.
We sat down at a local restaurant and were greeted with a “welcome!” and cold glasses of water. That’s hospitality.
We have 40+ people come over to watch the Superbowl every year. We make the food, but since our table doesn’t seat 40 people, everyone eats on their laps. Actually, some people stand up to eat. But that’s still hospitality.
Hospitality is an action. And I would add that hospitality, at its core, is an attitude. It’s an attitude of generosity. It says, “you are welcome here”. It anticipates the needs of guests or strangers. It makes someone want to stay a little longer. It makes someone want to come back again. It has the power to disarm people as they let their guard down and settle in. It lets someone know that you care.
You can show hospitality in your home, but you can extend it outside of the home, too. Wherever you’re not the new person, you can show it.
What is hospitality at work?
Is there someone new at work? Show them how to work the coffee machine on their first day. Offer to show them the cafeteria, then eat with them so they don’t have to eat alone. Tell them you’re glad they joined the team: “We were really slammed these past few months. I’m so glad you’re here.” (I worked at a place with high turnover—I’ve used that one a lot).
What is hospitality at church?
Is someone sitting alone? Go introduce yourself. Does someone seem like they’re looking for something? Ask if you can help. Speaking from firsthand experience, they’re usually looking for the bathroom. That’s an easy one!
What is hospitality at someone else’s house?
Even when you’re the recipient of someone else’s hospitality, you can show it back. Does the host seem harried? Ask how you can help. Did someone just arrive? Draw them into your conversation. Find the person standing alone, lingering a little too long at the buffet table, and ask them how they know the host.
What is hospitality in your own home?
Where do I start? This is a post for another day. But in short: extend an invitation. Make a meal or a cup of coffee. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Clear out your coat closet so you have enough room for guests’ coats. Put a nightlight or a candle in the bathroom so guests don’t fumble with the lights. Ask good questions. Listen, and then ask follow-up questions. Mounds of leftovers? Pack them in containers and send them with your guests (this is a tip taken from my mom, who hoards CoolWhip containers in the basement for doling out leftovers). Wish guests a safe journey home.
Now you may say, “that’s easy for you.” I agree—some people have the gift of hospitality, or the hospitality gene, or whatever you want to call it. It comes more naturally for some. But at its core, it’s simply generosity. It’s taking a minute to welcome someone and anticipate their needs. It’s listening well. It doesn’t need to involve fancy dinners and wedding china. Hospitality can be as simple as a friendly “welcome” to a stranger.
As I launch the Gift of Hospitality blog, I’m excited to explore what it means to be hospitable and to answer the question, “what is hospitality?” On the blog, you’ll find delicious recipes, ideas and tips for entertaining, dinner table conversation starters, simple decor, ideas on how to create a welcoming space, and much more. You can follow along on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, too!