I have this mental picture of an aproned lady standing in her doorway, holding a toddler on her hip. Hair wisps around her face, forming the illusion of a halo, and she leans against the door frame with her tired little boy’s head on her shoulder as she waves good-bye to a friend who came for coffee.
That’s one of the homiest, most comforting pictures of hospitality I can imagine. To meet each other in a place where hearts can meet, to enter another’s world—if only for fifteen minutes—to cry or ask questions or laugh.
The wonderful thing about this is that any of us can give this hospitality even though we have no apron, no front door, and no toddler to hold.
Hospitality says, “I enjoy being with you.” It’s coming along-side someone on a walk in the woods or in a dentist’s waiting room. Hospitality doesn’t even need food or drink, although it’s always nice to be offered a glass of water or a cup of tea, especially with a flickering candle or cheery flower nearby.
“Will you have a cuppa?” Our Australian friends taught us this lovely, inviting question. Drinking tea is one of life’s luxuries, but maybe we should make it a necessity. It gives friends a reason to rest awhile, smile and giggle and chat while the tea first steeps and then cools enough to drink. Sipped out of faded mugs or dainty china cups, tea lets you meet each other on common ground and share the gift of warm friendship.
In addition to normal teas and coffees, the plethora of exotic chais, lattes, and cappuccinos may indicate how marketers have cashed in on this need for people to connect with each other. Tea is more than caffeine. It’s fellowship—something everyone in the world needs.
When a friend comes to see you, go ahead and make a little effort to arrange a dish of sand and shells or a doily with a scented candle. Try a different flavor of cappuccino and put out a variety of cups to choose from. You don’t have to serve food—although shortbread is awfully good and easy to make ahead of time.
Emily, my friend and mentor, showed hospitality to me when I came to her house, and she asked questions to draw out my broken heart. In that short visit, sitting on the deck steps behind their trailer, I found comfort and care. There were no fancy decorations or dainty foods—just love, sensitive questions, and a hug. That’s all I needed. It was so significant that I’ll never forget that visit.