Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Hospitality (02/07/05)
By Renita Koehn
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
That is, I neglect it until we have company. When we have company, the dust flies off the tables and dressers. The sweeper bag gobbles it up off the carpet and carries it to the trash can, where, on the following Tuesday, it is delivered into the hands of our city sanitary workers for its ultimate demise.
Wonder why I let the dust gather? I feel a sense of satisfaction when I’ve dusted and had our wonderful meal with our infrequent guests. After the guests have gone and my husband and I have finished the dishes, we sigh and say to one another, “that was nice, we should do that more often.” And we think in our hearts, “Yes, let’s make that happen.” But before you know it, dust has gathered on the tabletops again, and once again I feel embarrassed.
Dust has become the visible proof of my shortcomings as the perfect perky homemaker so well modeled for us in the 1950s. You could say that this layer of dust has become a barricade between me and whatever hostess I might be. Although it sneaks up on me and gathers slowly, the thin grey film drapes over my home like a shroud. I don’t want to see it, and I especially don’t want others to see it!
Oddly, I have noticed, this kind of thing doesn’t seem to bother my husband at all. He wouldn’t mind if company came in unannounced, with no meal on the table, dishes in the sink, and dust piled high (not to mention our clutter of books, mail, and folded laundry that hasn’t made its way to the closet yet). In fact, my husband has an entirely different approach to the whole have-people-over thing. He observes that I’m oversensitive and that the house really isn’t all that bad. I guess you could say that we’ve never really struck that finer balance on this issue yet. My offer is: “Help me keep a clean home and I’ll gladly have people over.” His response is: “Why does the house have to be spotless? I just want to have people over who can be with us as we live.”
Come to think of it, I recall that my dad had a similar response. He was always inviting people over without warning, and Mom would fuss and kick into high gear to get the house at the “company-ready” mark by lift-off. We had beautiful dinners around the dining room table, the chandelier sparkling above our heads. It was lovely. But somehow, I rarely am able to pull off one of these stunning events. Life’s demands somehow dictate otherwise.
But I am lately wondering if maybe Dad’s and my husband’s approach needs some consideration. I want to keep a spotless home; but is “spotless” necessary for sharing friendship? I’m not sure yet where the balance lies. Is it possible that hospitality is simply and humbly sharing who you are with people, loving them, putting them at ease, and attending to their needs? Perhaps that is closer to the mark than hostessing a flawless and elegant evening (even though this also has its pleasantries).
Maybe in some symbolic way, just beyond my conscious understanding, the dust on my tabletops is telling me something. Behind the clearing away of that dust, there lies an expression of beauty and a deep feeling of satisfaction. And perhaps behind the veil of the fear of sharing and giving myself away, there lies the deep and beautiful blessing of hospitality.
Now, where did I put the Pledge?*
* Pledge is the registered trademark of S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
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