Interview with a Hospitalitarian

Have you ever met a "Hospitalitarian?" Double click to read explanation in yesterday's post.

Each month I'm going to invite a hospitalitarian to join us at The Shared Table – to share their heart, their vision for hospitality, their stories, their secrets and maybe even some recipes! While some of them may have careers in the hospitality industry, most of them are just like you – brave souls who have made the decision to live their lives with an open door policy.

Today I'd like to introduce you to my dear friend Bonnie Jackson. Wife, mother, homemaker, business owner and grandmother, Bonnie embodies the spirit of hospitality; both her house and her heart are an open door. I can't think of a better person to kick this thing off.

Susan: Bonnie, I guess we've been friends for over 30 years now;  one of the first things that struck me about you was the sense of ease you seemed to have about entertaining.I don’t remember ever seeing you flustered. What do you attribute that to?

Bonnie: A lot of it has to do with planning ahead. I've always tried to think of details beforehand so I didn’t have anything to do once my guests arrived.

Susan: So are you saying that you typically serve meals that can be prepared ahead of time?

Bonnie:On occasion I'll do last minute preps but only if they're not too involved because I always think my guests are more important than the food I'm serving. If I have to stand there to read a recipe, I don’t do it. I've always tried to make things that present well but are simple to do.

Susan: You've always seemed very organized; does that come naturally to you or is it something you learned over the years?

Bonnie: I'm by nature organized and have always paid attention to details. Growing up,I did a lot of waitressing and always viewed it as an organizational activity, trying to think ahead of who needed what. One summer during my college years I worked at a very high end resort in Northern Michigan; it was a phenomenal experience. I used to keep cards of hints of things people liked and tried to do little things to please and satisfy the guests, quietly. 

Susan: Do you remember the first time you had people over to your home for a meal?

Bonnie: [laughter] We had our pastor and his wife over for dinner and I made spaghetti. I didn't know how much water to use and basically made noodles you could plaster the walls with.

Susan: I know having people over has always been a regular practice for you and your husband, Greg. Have there been seasons in your life where you were more active that way than others? Is it slowing down now or the same?

Bonnie: It's an ongoing thing, it just looks different now. I've always enjoyed meeting new people, maybe because I've moved so many times in my life. We still host large church functions at our house and have people over for dinner, but now I focus less on perfect meals and more on finding things guests really like; it's more about the fellowship. I still have a penchant towards doing things that I think would bless somebody. I grow a lot of flowers, so I tend to make my own arrangements and put things at people’s places. It's just something I’ve always liked. We do things more casual and less formal than we used to.

Susan: I seem to remember a funny story about unexpected guests.

Bonnie: Greg invited some friends over and forgot to tell me.  I'll never forget going to the door and they were standing there with a bottle of wine. We joked around about it later, but I felt perfectly comfortable serving them what we were going to have; I had made smoked sausage with sauerkraut.. It was more about the fellowship; gathering together was more important to me.

Susan:  I like to describe hospitality as sharing with others the gifts we’ve been given; what do you think is the most obvious gift that you share with others?

Bonnie: I’ve been a new kid very frequently, and know first-hand how important that gesture is of making people feel at home, like they’re part of things. Its hard to grow into a community when you feel like everybody else already knows each other.

Susan:  Do you have any organizational tips for us?

Bonnie: People kid me about my organizational thing; I just try to make little mental notes. I’m observant. Sometimes people say things and I remember their likes and dislikes and I try to incorporate that. Not all people are geared that way. I think prayer has a lot to do with it too, praying that you can be there with your guests. I always try to get to know more about them than I knew before they came.

Susan: Any thoughts on the difference between entertaining and hospitality?

Bonnie: I do think they are really different. Entertaining is more of a form and a program; it's like a three point outline. Hospitality brings more of a subjective element into it where your guest is more important.

Susan: Any final words of wisdom or advice or encouragement?

Bonnie: Don't use busyness as an excuse for not getting together with people. Work will be there tomorrow but the opportunity to get together with somebody might not be.


I love Bonnie's emphasis on being observant. It's about paying attention – fascinating phrase, isn't it? It's going to cost you something – time, money, your heart, but you get so much in return: a new perspective, friendship, stories…..Hospitality is about who you're becoming.

Coming up next: Two recipes from Bonnie's kitchen, that fit right in with our theme of "Expedients" rather than long, involved formulas for failure. You can find them in the categories section under "Dainty Morsels."

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3 Responses to “Interview with a Hospitalitarian”

  1. beth carlson says:

    Great interview – I agree with everything you said about Bonnie.  I have been blessed to be her friend for about as long as you have and have been the recipient of more that my share of the Jackson's hospitality !  I will look forward to reading your blogs!!!!!!

  2. admin says:

    Bonnie is the BOMB when it comes to hospitality. I saw a picture of you and her in one of her facebook albums- you were both raising your glass of wine – almost used that photo in the blog. Thanks for the feedback – hope you’ll tell your friends about the blog!

  3. Betty says:

    Bonnie and Greg's home is always welcoming – I miss being part of their lives.

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