When you live in a cool city, you inevitably have lots of visitors. As a middle child with a severe case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), this is awesome.
The year I lived in Paris, I think I hosted close to 25 people as they came through the city, and a large number of those people actually stayed with me in my 10 square meter apartment, remember the one? We consistently have visitors in DC as well, though it is a little less glamorous than Paris, and thankfully our space is a just little bit larger.
Last week has been one of lots of visitors, as I managed to cram in one last week of summer freedom in between summer school ending and orientation for the fall starting this week. We had several different family members, friends from France, and a friend from home passing through for a couple days each and I couldn’t have been happier. There were visits to the amazing DC sites that I forget in the interval between guests, picnics, multiple visits to Founding Farmers and Ted’s Bulletin(I know, we really do need to pick more favorite DC restaurants), way too much dessert, endless rounds of Monopoly Deal, relaxing by the water, and lots of laughter.
There have also been several loads of laundry almost every day and lots of dishes. There has been the daily clean-up of our little apartment, transferring the living room into a guestroom, then back into a living room, only to become a guestroom again at night. I have cleaned the bathroom multiple times, stayed up way too late every night, and ignored the list of things I needed to do on this last week of free time.
All of this has me thinking about hospitality, one of the things I enjoy most.
In a perfect world, I know how I would want my hospitality to look. For starters, it would look like an actual guestroom, one with big windows and crisp linens of obscenely high thread-counts, because in this perfect world I am the type of person who can stretch out on a set of sheets and actually identify the thread-count. This room would of course be stocked with all the necessities that a guest could forget, preferably in those adorable miniature sizes that don’t allow you to wash more than half your body. There would be notes left on the bed in my personal stationary welcoming them to my humble abode. In the morning, I would welcome them into the charming breakfast nook (as people who live in big homes affectionately call these spaces which are actually bigger than my whole kitchen), where I would serve seasonal fruit compote and Belgian waffles accompanied by free range bacon and farm fresh eggs. I would squire them around the city, treating these blessed guests to everything I love before wowing them with my own domestic greatness at dinnertime, where we would eat unpronounceable French food and miniature desserts served in the individual ramekins that those who have guestrooms and breakfast nooks have space to store.
But that world doesn’t exist for now. And if I wait around until it does – if it ever does – then I will have already missed out on years where I could be cultivating hospitality.
For now, we have a small budget, a small space, and big hearts. We have a slightly droopy couch and a twin air mattress. We have hodge-podge sheets, one extra set of towels, and no personalized stationary. We have one bathroom, but the door has a hard time shutting all the way, so that our guests routinely get it finally shut only to be unable to open it when they need to leave.
I read this article a while back, and I know that I already shared it once, but I can’t stop thinking over how good and true it is. In it, Erin talks about how our Pinterest/Internet/Instagram fed zeal for hostessing in photo-worthy perfection has actually made our hospitality more about showing off than inviting in.
I’m trying to keep that in mind as I extend hospitality in spaces that are less than ideal. I can’t offer grandeur, but I can offer a clean place that is so happy to have them. I can do laundry, and select places that I love to take them, and keep lots of bagels, apples, and pink lemonade on hand. I can plan simple picnics and
I James can make sure that the coffee pot is full in the morning. I can stay up late talking and put aside work.
But even more than that, I can develop a hospitable soul, one that values people. With our hospitality, we shouldn’t be saying something about how impressive our homes are, or how many hostessing images we have studied. Hospitality should communicate that people matter. They are worth cleaning up and planning ahead. They are worth loads of laundry, scrubbed toilets, and trips to the grocery to stock up on snacks. They are worth nights of less sleep and getting behind on stuff. They are immeasurably worth our time. At its heart, hospitality should be a profoundly humbling experience, rather than one that bolsters our own sense of self. It is about delighting in putting others first.
Here’s to becoming hospitable souls.
All these pictures are from some of our awesome visitors of the past week. Thanks so much for coming y’all!!!