Summer Hospitality, Part One

This week, Dan and Becky Allender mark the arrival of summer by turning toward the time-honored rituals of visiting and hosting friends and families. What does it mean to live as people of hospitality, whether we’re visiting the homes of others or welcoming loved ones into our homes?

Dan: “There is a power to welcoming. […] Yet this is not an easy issue, especially if you have a sense of honor for yourself and honor for your guest.”

Becky: “It takes vulnerability on either side of the gate. To be gracious and interested in the other person and offer goodness, we do that as a host family or as we go to other people.”

Becky and Dan share some practical wisdom for making the most of these visits, like identifying an intention for your time together, setting parameters, risking the vulnerability of sharing your hopes and expectations for each other. Dan recalls the quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,” and he and Becky reflect on how their particular personalities have shaped past experiences of hospitality.

If you’ve invited me into your home, you’ve invited me into your heart.

Dan: “It’s a lot like camping: leave no trace. […] You don’t want to create a kind of cluttered presence in someone’s home.”

What a gift it is to enter the home of someone else, to step into their world and witness the daily rhythms of their lives. May we never take that honor lightly, and may we remember that each person, each family, each home is endlessly unique. That awareness requires a certain humility from us as guests—a willingness to learn, adapt, and celebrate the particular quirks and beauties of the homes we visit.

Dan: “As a guest, you’re going into a foreign country. In some ways, you give up the rights of your own country in order to enter into the world of another—it’s a very ancient near Eastern view. […] If you don’t go in with curiosity, with that sense of ‘I’m here to learn about you, your world, how it is you engage,’ then you’ve already presumed what I think is a very American structure of ‘We are equals, we just happen to be in your home.’”

Becky: “You want to make it as easy on your host as possible by being available, not only to help, but just to delight in them. You’re coming graciously to see their world.”

That category of delight is central to the art of hospitality. As we enter a home with what Becky calls “eyes of beauty and care,” we affirm, honor, and celebrate our hosts by showing curiosity and intrigue about who they are and how they live. Delight goes both ways, too; next week Dan and Becky will continue this conversation by talking more about the crucial role of the host, and what it means to welcome others into our lives.

Dan: “We’re there to delight. If that’s not your intent, then why are you going? What’s the purpose of being there if it is not to bring honor to the one who has invited you into their home?”