Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Practical Hospitality

Have you ever noticed that the root word of hospitality is hospital?  Can you think of any better place to minister to the needs of your family and friends and others in need of comfort than the welcoming embrace of your family home?  I can’t either!

The truth of the matter is that our homes provide the perfect environment to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of our family and those that enter our home’s sheltering embrace.   And as women, we are the administrators of this institution – the home, mankind’s first “hospital”.

In this modern age, true hospitality is quickly becoming a lost art.  We have given up the throne of our home for the lure of a corner office, and in the process, we have forgotten how to serve our family and everyone else within our sphere of influence. 

When I was a little girl, I loved getting coffee for my daddy.  I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to learn to make it and once old enough, I took great pleasure in making sure he had fresh coffee before he even knew he needed it.  A number of times, ladies that were visiting our family would say cutting things like “your dad can get his own coffee – his legs aren’t broken!”, and for a moment, just a moment, I would wonder if somehow I was breaking some cardinal rule, serving my father.  And then, I would take a breath and remember – serving was my calling.  I was just being hospitable.  I was ministering to those within my sphere of influence – and those old biddies could just go flour their eggies!

Over the years I have learned that hospitality truly begins at home.  My husband is the king of his castle and I do everything I can to make him feel welcome and honored in his own home.   I have found that I have many opportunities throughout the day to minister to my husband.  I rise first in the morning, kick the wood cookstove in the guts and put water on for tea.  I light candles on the tea table (a trunk in the middle of our kitchen), set tea cups and creamer and sugar out and fill the tea pot with hot water to heat it before setting the tea to steep.  I mill around a bit, picking up little things that the children left out the night before, put the dog outside and generally get the house ready to greet my husband.  As soon as tea is done steeping, my husband settles himself in the big rocking chair opposite the love seat and warmed by the heat of the cookstove, we enjoy a few cups of tea before he braves the elements of a new day.  We discuss our plans for the day, funny little things the kids have said and problems we are not looking forward to having to handle.  Essentially, we arm each other for the day ahead and then we pray together.  This is practical hospitality.

During the day, as my children and I hurry from one task to another, I make sure to set aside some time to read to the littles or play a game.  I spend much of my day talking to the older children – about everything from their favorite animals to the character qualities they want in a future mate.  This is practical hospitality.

When a car drives up our driveway, I immediately have one of our older daughters put on the tea kettle or fill glasses with ice in anticipation of lemonade or iced tea.  The younger children scurry around putting away toys or clearing away school books.  Our entire focus becomes welcoming our guests.  We do our best to minister to their needs, whatever they may be.   We laugh with them, cry with them, rejoice with them and mourn with them – whatever the occasion calls for.  We keep confidences and bandage wounds.  We speak words of encouragement and words of truth. This is practical hospitality.

More often than not, hospitality is all about binding the wounds of life.  It’s about building marriages and building relationships.  It’s about smoothing over hurt feelings and drying tears with words of comfort.  It’s about hugging someone who needs a hug and gently speaking to the truth to someone who is in the wrong.  Hospitality is much more than nourishing the body.  Hospitality is ministering to the soul.

When my husband returns from work, I have tea waiting for him.  We reconnect.  Talk about our day.  We share our highs and lows.  There are no children allowed.  Just my husband and I.  I minister to him.  He ministers to me.  This is practical hospitality.

I still love to get coffee for my daddy.  I love to get coffee for my husband as well.  But now, my daughters often beat me to it.  They too, have learned to love serving the people in their lives.  Any more, I don’t even have to ask to have the kettle put on or the glasses filled with ice – they just do it.  And it is not only my daughters.  My sons will quietly whisper “aren’t you going to invite them in for tea, mom?”, when an unexpected visitor shows up at our door.  Hospitality, it seems, is catching.

In a world filled with “entertaining”, true hospitality is a life-giving breath of fresh air.  True hospitality will build new relationships and strengthen old ones.  True hospitality will bind wounds and strengthen bonds.  True hospitality isn’t fancy and doesn’t put on airs – true hospitality is practical hospitality.


  1. I have forgotten this. Part of me wishes we still lived nearby. Here in Vermont it alot of ok what do you want. How can you be hospitable with that. You always made us feel welcome. Thank you for that.
    That's why I will always consider you a friend.

  2. Right now, I'm not very close to any family(it has been different in the past, but a lot of my family has since passed away)-we just don't jive-they lead very different lives from mine for the most part (I don't run on ethanol). I have friends, and we have planned, but informal get-togethers. Each of use brings something-drinks, snacks, videos, a funny or weird item-maybe the Cool Thing Of The Week. Sometimes, it's a repair job,cookout, or short trip-any reason to get out and socialize is a good one. Family aren't just those who have similar DNA.

  3. As one who has shown up unexpectantly at the end of your driveway, and was invited into your home for tea, I can attest to this! Enola, you have the gift of hospitality and so does your family. Thank you for showing us such kindness! This is so sorely needed, especially in the world today. Bless you, you all ministered to my husband and I that day, it was such an encouragement for us. That was almost 2 years ago and we still talk about it!

  4. Enola,


    What you wrote was interesting. I have never known real hospitality and I probably will never encounter it. As our civilization errodes so has manners, etiquette and tact.
    I can see the decline as part of womens liberation and lack of family values as the root cause of the decline in this nations socail structure. I joke around about "Redneckism's" and other stuff, but thats all humor. In the workplace we have co-workers cussing each out in a loud arguments right behind me as I am talking to a customer on the phone (and the customer can hear every word)
    There is no reason for things to break out into aruguments. Its a very highly stressful workplace but that only makes it worse.

    The same happens with driving and road rage, people trying to stare down other people in the street. I get Mexican gang members who try and stare me down freqently, if they only knew how armed I am at that moment (Maybe "Open Carry" of a firearm would solve that problem)

    People blasting their loud Boom! Boom! car stereo's late at night in my neighborhood etc.

    Society is at the brink of an all out blood bath. People are streesed and the televisions they are glued too make it much worse as if they are being "egged on"

    Myself, I retreat into my well defended house with security systems. I have become a little bit of an "Urban Hermit"

    Not a xenophobe or agoraphobe, just someone who tires of trivial human attitudes and mindgames. Humans are dynamic creatures, always changing. When humans are involved at any level I expect something to go wrong somewhere.

    That is the Pessimist in me I have learned the hard way time and time again when dealing with humans. Many times its just a lack of "hospitality and simple manners"

    1. On that order, one of the most graphic (O.K., and funny) cussings I have ever heard was late last year in the parking lot here at work. A coworker gave a very detailed and creative cussing to one of the parking people (aka "ticket pricks")who was out handing out parking tickets(this is viewed as "double dipping" since we have to pay to park)-it inspired a chain cussing of sorts from other coworkers.
      At my last job, a coworker had a brother-in-law who worked for the IRS as an auditor, and cussings and *very* icy receptions were the norm(the social equivalent of absolute zero). With that job, though, that's just part of the territory. If you want the cushy fed pay and benefits, deal with it. There are jobs where there's just no love for you,and that's one of'em. There are still plenty of good people, though, or civilization would have already collapsed.

      I find plenty of decent people around-maybe it's just where I live or something.

    2. Hey Anon,


      I am ex-Navy and you know the phrase, cuss like a sailor. I said this once, and I will say it again. If I had a dollar for every time I said the 'king of all cusswords" beginning with the letter F. I could pay off the current national debt and the extra three trillion the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) thinks will top off the debt at 20 trillion for Obamacare.
      I offer no excuse for my gross negligence at destroying the english language. I have lived a colorful life so far and had many adventures and miss adventures from doing whiskey shots with the bassist to Alice Coopers rockband in Chicago to drinking beer in Spain with British national who was a "true Marxist" and debating political philosophy (we agreed to disagree and became friends)
      I try to stay low to the ground and run with people that actually have to work for living and struggle, paycheck to paycheck. This keeps me grounded in reality. What I am getting at is the language used at this level is rough and harsh as the people themselves.

      Going back to the focus of Enola's post too, I find people at the lower levels of society display more hospitality and manners in most cases than wealthier people. I also have found that no matter what income level you are at their is always someone above you in a higher category that will look down on you. If your only worth fifty thousand dollars, the person worth one hundred thousand dollars will look down at you. If your worth fifty million dollars, the person worth one hundred million dollars will look down at you.
      So whats the point of trying to make more money in order to climb the social strata. I would rather hang at the lower levels evan if I was worth a large some of money. No one would know about the money I would have but I would have friends that are grounded in reality and would display more hospitality and live in the real world.

      One final thought. Let me paraphrase "Han Solo" from Star Wars. I have been from one of end of this planet to the other. The worst Pizza I ever had was Goat Cheese Pizza in Turkey and the worst beer I ever had was San Miguel beer from the Phillipines which I had in the Indian Ocean on Diego Garcia.

  5. Love this post! The hubs and I try to "outdo" one another in serving! Also, I'm blessed to live in a small town where people still drop in. :)

  6. I wish more people understood the meaning of hospitality. Even when family comes over I offer drinks. Fire up the coffee maker or anything else that may be needed. As a person that goes into people's houses very very often (I am a claims adjuster so I am usually there for at least 2 hours) I seldom if ever get offered a bottle of water or anything like that. I truly am amazed. Every time I have a service person come to my house I offer food, water, snack, use of the restroom. But nope..out of 440 claims I worked last year I believe I was offered maybe 8 times :(

  7. Please share how your husband makes you feel welcomed in your home after a long days work, feeling under the weather, dealing with the children etc.You know. How he treats you like a queen.

  8. Such an enjoyable read. Visiting your site every morning is like going back home; families are so well-grounded in values, civility, and in the Lord.
    Montana Guy

  9. I've always said 20 minutes of conversation at a kitchen table with tea & a homemade goodie could solve most of the world's emotional problems. People need to feel the love that hospitality like yours provides. Thanks for reminding us, once again, how essential the homemaker's role is.

  10. Enola,


    I dont mean to get off topic, but I just realized I know more about drillin' for oil and fracking then I do about taking care of barnyard critters like chickens and what not. If I bought a farm, I would not have the faintest clue on what to do.
    I can say this, if someone genetically engineered a "Folgers Instant Coffee Cow" I'd be out ten times a day milking that poor girl to death.

  11. Thanks for reminding me of one of the important things in life. Before my dear wife died last year she practiced hospitality, even from her wheelchair and later from her bed when she couldn't get up. After she died I forgot about doing what she always did when we had guests of any type. It's easy to do - all I have to do is remember to do it just as she did. Again -thanks for the gentle reminder.

    Hangtown Frank

  12. Some history on hospitals:
    Some http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07480a.htm

  13. Dear, sweet lady. You have touched me deeply today. You have gently reminded me of one of the things we are put on earth to do. Our Lord was a servant and has called us to that position. Hospitality, kindness, and someone to talk with are things, sadly, of which our world has great need. By lovingly taking on the cloth of an obedient servant, maybe we can help someone on their journey. Thank you.