hospitality vs. entertainment

 

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In the past year and a half of being married and having a home, I’ve learned (and realised that I have a lot more to learn) about how to open up our home for others. I imagine that a few years from now, I will be setting out a table quite differently than I plan to now, but I thought I’d share a few lessons and tips that I’ve picked up so far.

I’ve learned that in hosting guests, we always walk the line between hospitality and entertainment, and I’ve landed with the conclusion that hospitality is the greater of the two for me. Why?

Because hospitality means vulnerability and entertainment means theatrics.

When I choose hospitality, I mean to choose to open my door and let people in to see whatever mess I happen to be in. When I entertain, I believe that I am on display and that my worth is determined by the quality of my appetizers.

It actually draws a lot of parallels with life in general (I find myself drawing parallels to meeting people for the first time, or being married), but for now let’s talk food and table. Here are a few tips:

  • Stop preparing to have guests (whatever that looks like for you) at least a HALF HOUR before guests arrive. You might consider having a glass of wine or reading a bit of a book. Be present, fully there – no one likes to arrive and feel as though their host has been running themselves thin preparing for them.
  • Don’t worry about spring cleaning every time a guest comes over (ahem, guilty). If you need to, straighten a bit, but don’t clean. In the same way that it is easier to relate to someone who takes the initiative to be vulnerable and let things hang out, let your home be an accurate representation of what your life is usually like – dust, crowded countertops, used towels, mucky floors and all – not polish and perfection.
  • Don’t overcomplicate what you offer in terms of food. I recommend soup and bread/buns (and I have a handy soup series going on the blog if you want to check out a few tested and easy recipes!). If you want to go all out, that’s fine, but you can also grab a baguette and whip up a pot of minestrone. M and I have also shared tuna melts with dear friends that were just the best.
  • Be generous, not fancy (this goes with the above point). As followers of the way of Jesus, I believe that we’re always called to be generous (going above and beyond what is expected and giving sacrificially). However, this kind of giving does not follow a formula or quotient. Your goal is not to impress, but to joyfully give of what you have.

All in all, hospitality is about sharing, equal to equal. And sharing without vulnerability is painful: it’s entertainment – carefully positioning yourself so that no one knows that you spent hours scrubbing and cleaning, or that you ruined a couple of recipes before guests arrived.

Guess what? Everyone feels the pressure of hosting and company and everyone is scared of the same judgements and evaluations. Get rid of the show. Share – vulnerably, willingly, generously – and you may find that opening up, whether it’s the door to your home or heart, is that much easier.

 

on vulnerability, imagination and stuff

I’m learning a little bit about vulnerability lately. Just a little.

I’m learning that vulnerability is what makes life (true life, the life that Jesus wants for us) possible.

My class on the Christian Imagination has been irritating me because I don’t feel like I have an imagination. And I don’t feel like I appreciate beauty. And before this course, I’d never really thought of God as the source of all beauty, much less as beautiful. This is a real wrestle to me.

I tend to want to describe events as beautiful, or people as beautiful. It’s not often that I will attribute beauty to a poem or a symphony or a painting. It’s just that these things don’t tell me enough. I need words and descriptions and statements and ideas about the locus from which these pieces emerged. I want to know the people who created these things. That’s the only way I seem to appreciate most artwork. Is that elementary? Probably.

But anyways. Onto other things [arts-related].

When I was in high school, I really enjoyed keeping a photojournal. The idea of the assignment was to fill the journal with things which inspired you, ideas for future projects, photo strips from current projects, etc. I really liked doing it. However, after I’d handed in my journal for the last time (our teacher reviewed them periodically and assessed them for completeness/level of creativity), I was sad to realize that I probably wouldn’t keep doing a journal. I tried. I bought the same brand (which was the perfect book size) with clean paper just thick enough to prevent pen bleed, and I tried to keep creating after high school, but I just wasn’t happy doing it. There was no one to look at it. My [weird? conceited?] self did not want to create unless someone else was looking.

I’m still not sure how exactly I feel about that.

I went to a really neat art show the other week in the home of a new acquaintance of mine who lives in the Downtown Eastside. My cousin Chris was also showing stuff at the show. He had a sketchbook of his out as part of his displayed works. When asked, he described making the unfinished book available was a way to be vulnerable.

I told him about the photojournal thing that I described above. He said that maybe it’s because I am a storyteller. I need people to hear what I have to say.

Maybe.

To end, this is a photo of a self-portrait-y entry, from… well, actually from 4th year at UBC (I guess my creativity wasn’t completely depleted.) I found this verse scratched into a table in one of the student lounges and really liked it. I copied the profile from a recent photo of myself. Yep.

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