Archive for June, 2010

What is Hospitality? part one

A tavola, non si invecchia.  "At the table, you don't grow old," declared my first year Italian instructor.

Maybe that was true in Italy – but not at my house. My intentions were good, but by the time I'd finally get the food on the table, I felt older than the aged cheese on the antipasto tray. I loved cooking and entertaining but often wound up missing the party because of the over ambitious menus I planned.  

I'd picture my guests and myself at the table, deep in conversation, or gathered around the stove, laughing and enjoying each other’s company, but it’s kind of hard to connect with people when you’re desperately trying to spin threads of caramel on a humid summer day, or attempting to make cantaloupe mousse in January when the melons are hard as a rock. Yes, I did that. I was a harried hostess because I totally misunderstood the meaning of hospitality. Then I met Shelby.

 

The Key to Hospitality

When I first met her I was a mess, depressed and depleted from a seemingly endless season of family struggles,  illness,  job loss and the resulting financial stress. Shelby heard about it and invited me to her lakeside home for what she called a “little retreat.” When I pulled into her driveway, I saw a small-scale Airstream trailer parked near the entrance. Shelby greeted me, handed me the key to the trailer and told me to stay as long as I liked. I could have stayed forever. Shelby had papered the ceiling and walls with maps, murals and posters of exotic vacation spots; reading materials were stacked next to a comfy built-in bed, soothing music played in the background and there was a note encouraging me to walk down to the lake or take a nap if I wanted. A few glorious hours later, she knocked on the door carrying a tray with tea and coffee and cookies. By the time I went home, I felt like a new woman –  I will never forget her or that afternoon.

Someone who I didn’t even know had seen a need and realized they had the means to address it. In the book Radical Hospitality, it says, "Hospitality is the overflowing of a heart that has to share what it has received." Shelby showed me hospitality by first, perceiving the need, and second, by sharing what she'd received: the gift of creativity. She employed her gift to create a place of respite for the weary and the hurting.

THE LAST COURSE: What gifts or talents have you been given that you could share with others? Freely giving them away ensures that your own Divine Supply will never run out.

If You’re Hungry…..Pull Up a Chair

What's at the top of your goal list?

 Picture it: the thing that's so big and near to your heart that you’ve mentally put it in the category of, "I don't even know where to begin," "maybe someday," or worse, "yeah, right!" Can you even remember when you first dared to put it down on paper? You have done that, haven’t you?

"He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap."

I skipped over that Bible verse for years, because, well, I’m not a farmer. But in January 2009, I came across it in another translation and it rocked me to my core:

“If you wait for perfect conditions,

you will never get anything done.”

 Right before it fell on my head!

One project had been on my waiting list forever: remodeling my kitchen/dining room to facilitate my dream of holding communal dinners. The conditions were far from perfect, but I decided to give myself permission to do it imperfectly. It didn’t hurt that my best friend, knowing my propensity towards procrastination, showed up one afternoon with a sledgehammer.             

The other long-standing item on my "to do" list was this blog; a front-burner project that I’ve allowed to boil away on the back of the stove while I lay awake at night with an acute case of insomnia. If the bags under my eyes get any bigger, the airlines are going to start charging me for extra luggage. I’d blame it on the caffeine, but I know it’s just my brain’s way of saying, “get this stuff out of your head and onto the page!”

The subject of The Shared Table? E.M. Forester said, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” I’m hoping this will be a two-way conversation, so who knows where we’ll end up, but I do have a focus in mind. A line in Frances Mayes’ book, In Tuscany, resonates with me: “The word ‘focus’ comes from the Latin for fireplace. In Italian, it’s “focolare” – the center of the home where we cook and eat and talk, all of which gives focus, a clarity to life.”

There's a transformation that occurs when we stop waiting for “perfect conditions” and begin to share our lives. Whether we’re sitting around the kitchen table, a conference table, or a folding table at the soup kitchen – when “two or three are gathered in His name,” it becomes a communion table, and that’s when we experience the abundant life, or as I like to call it, ‘la vita abbondante.’

I hope you’ll think of The Shared Table as just that: a place where we can sit down and have a conversation about what it means to live connected. If you’re hungry for that, pull up a chair. The door’s always open.