Hospitality: Beginning at Home

Sometimes I daydream about hosting a bed and breakfast. My mind fondly goes back to the splendid experiences I have received over the years, of thoughtfully arranged rooms, of delectable breakfast served with care, of shortbread biscuits placed beside teacups on bedside table . . . . As simple as such things may seem, it’s the love, the excellence, and the intentionality of such acts that can make them so transformative. We behold beauty, and we are changed. We feel stronger. We feel more beautiful ourselves. We are instilled with hope.

Time and again I have talked myself out of the idea of hosting a bed-and-breakfast. I’ve recognized the sort of lifestyle it would require—working mornings and evenings, as well as the hours in between, busy holidays, and hardly any time for the things that I actually really want to be doing and I’m preparing for (namely, teaching and writing).

But as much as I talk myself out of it, somehow the idea always manages to come back to me. For I have been changed by such marvelous displays of hospitality—again, even simple ones can be and are marvelous in their way. I have been a recipient of such, and deeply desire to pass that along to others. To be a creator and curator of such experiences.

Maybe this daydream will one day become a reality (we don’t necessarily do only one thing for our entire lives), but in my sacred, ordinary, everyday life, how can I access this inspiration to live into hospitality right where I am?

The secret? Well, it’s not really a secret at all. Start at home. And I don’t even mean with hosting friends for dinner, to stay the night, etc.—even though these are certainly wonderful things to do and are encouraged. I mean start with those with—or near—whom you live. For me, this means welcoming my husband home from work each evening into an environment rich with love, grace, warmth. It means not only fostering a physical environment that does this—taking care of the home, making dinner, putting away the clutter. It also means attending to my own soul—avoiding anger and frustration, while fostering joy and wonder.

Hospitality is not merely about physical environment, in the sense of clean sheets, tasty meals, and tidy floors. These certainly are important, but the overall feel of a place is profoundly affected by those who dwell within it. What made my stay in Tobermory so marvelous, in part, was the cheerful warmth of my hosts, Alan and Jeannine. It was their docile, affable sheepdogs, Fergus and Mungo. It was what these hosts brought from themselves, not nearly went they did in the home.

Like many things, hospitality is something we develop skill at through practice. As wonderful and important as it is to do this through hosting friends for meals, teatime, even overnights, it begins with our daily practice of cultivating a place of beauty, calm, hope in the midst of the ordinary. How we respond in unplanned moments shapes and establishes rhythms for how we respond in our planned times of gathering and hosting.

Let us begin where we are.

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