I accidentally read about a book about hospitality this fall. I suppose no one ever accidentally reads an entire book, but that’s almost what happened. I started reading the book because I met the author this summer, and she struck me as authentic, kind, and devoted to her faith.
As I leafed through the pages of the book, Michelle’s words began to echo in the deepest recesses of my soul, and I knew she was speaking truth. An Invitation to the Table: Embracing the Gift of Hospitality by Michelle Lazurek changed the way I perceive hospitality forever.
All fall I pondered our neighbors’ gift of hospitality. They invite the neighborhood into their home for birthday parties, autumn celebrations, slime-making, hotdog roasts, and more. They bless us with huge amounts of delicious food, crafts for the kids, and genuine kindness that touches our hearts.
All fall I wanted to be more like them.
And then I picked up Michelle’s book, and I was sure her words would challenge me to be a better hostess, spend more money on community potlucks, and invite our friends for dinner more often. Michelle’s words did remind me that this kind of hospitality is important.
Her words also showed me that hospitality is much more than a clean house and good food. She writes, “Hospitality is more than just inviting some friends over for dinner. Hospitality means messing up your life and sacrificing every convenience and comfort for the sake of promoting the gospel. . . Jesus set the expectation that if people wanted to follow him, they had to forgo everything they ever knew and, in essence, become foreigners and aliens in the land, relying on other people’s willingness to accept them into their homes. . . In the same way, we must offer our lives as an example of hospitality and live hospitably with others.”
Messing up our lives. These words have echoed in my mind for months.
While we are called to open our homes to others, hospitality includes opening our hearts to others and providing a safe place to unload heavy burdens and connect. Hospitality can happen in our homes, but it can also happen on the corner of mainstreet, the bleachers of a high school basketball game, or the produce aisle of the local grocery store.
Hospitality is reaching into someone else’s world and inviting them into yours.
I was somewhere between middle school and high school when alternative music started making waves through Sony Walkman headsets across the nation. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Live changed the way our generation jammed, and they echoed the unspoken words of the angst we experienced in our adolescent quests for identity.
Michelle writes about this movement in a way that captures the culture of the 90’s:
“They did not just change the way I listened to music, but everything else changed too. I soon found myself walking down the hall decked out in identical Converse shoes and red plaid flannel shirts with my friends. Soon, I was not myself anymore. I found myself belonging to something much bigger than the music – a whole way of life. Because I liked the same music as my friends, I found something I had in common with them. They soon invited me to parties and to sit with them at lunch. My commonalities with my newfound friends helped me relate to them. Soon I wanted to do what they were doing and go where they wanted to go.
“Nirvana wasn’t just any band. They changed the face and future of music. Although their music was original and innovative, they didn’t just create a fan base, they created a culture.”
What does Nirvana have to do with hospitality? By creating a culture where people felt free to connect, they unified young people who were questioning everything about their lives.
I’m not proposing we model or repeat the messages portrayed in all of Nirvana’s songs, but I do propose we create cultures of love and inclusion wherever we go. By the way we treat others, by the kindness – or lack thereof – in our eyes, by whether we live in a hurry or live gently, we choose to either extend open hearts of hospitality or leave the doors of our souls closed and locked.
Our neighbors have exhibited hospitality that reaches to the deepest levels of human connection. Not only have they learned the art of presenting good food and fun activities, they do it with kindness and care. They’re more interested in connecting with us than appearing perfect. They’re a living example.
So how do we follow Michelle’s advice and embrace the gift of hospitality? Here are a few simple ideas:
- Cultivate an attitude of both an open heart and an open home.
- Make yourself available to step into the lives of others.
- Show up for events that matter.
- Listen without offering clichés.
- Sacrifice your comfort for the sake of someone else.
- Invite someone into your home and don’t worry about the clutter or dirty floors.
- Invite someone to lunch at a restaurant and make it your goal to see through to her heart.
- Live slowly enough to hear more than just the words of others.
Hospitality begins in the heart. May we learn to lay our lives down for the sake of others.
Michelle Lazurek, The Ripple Effect (Coudersport, PA: Michelle Lazurek, 2013), 19-20.
Michelle, Lazurek, An Invitation to the Table: Embracing the Gift of Hospitality (Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2016).