My husband and I had been living in our new home in our new city for about two months, but we still had not met our next-door neighbors. A huge bush covered the side of their house, so we rarely ever saw them enter or leave their home.
One evening Jeremy and I were sitting on our second-story patio eating our meal and we heard the neighbor’s door close. As they rounded the corner, I called out to them from above, “Excuse me! Hello, neighbors!”
Nothing. Apparently, they did not hear me. So naturally, I called out again, a little louder.
They both looked up, and I suddenly realized I didn’t know what to say from there. Fortunately, words still tumbled from my mouth,
“We like you! We’d love to have a meal with you!”
Jeremy looked at me with curiosity. If you know me you know that I basically like all people, so this statement was not necessarily unwarranted, but I’m sure it sounded strange to these people who had never met us. For reasons I do not understand they responded to my strange statement, “We want to hang out with you too! We’ve been out of town so much these past few months, but we’re back for the rest of the summer. Let’s get together!”
We said a hearty good evening to each other, and they continued their walk. It hit me how great it felt to be so authentically myself in my extension of hospitality. Some people knock on doors with muffins. Some people send out paper invitations. Not me. I shout out to you about how much I like you.
A few nights later we decided to officially invite our neighbors over, but I raided the pantry and found we had very little to offer. We thought about having them over the next night when we would have a proper meal, but then I thought about what God has so consistently taught me about hospitality: we do not have to give from our abundance. We can give what we have and give of ourselves.
So, Jeremy and I raided our cheese drawer. I dusted off a big cutting board, and we loaded it up with sharp Cheddar, tangy goat, crumbly Gorgonzola, and soft, pillowy Brie. Then we added almonds, and I grabbed an apple and sliced it up.
Satisfied with our creation, Jeremy went over and knocked on our neighbors’ door, but no one was there. He promptly returned and invaded my office for a sticky note. He wrote, “Cheese tray—–>!” with the arrow pointing to our patio and left the note on their door.
This was so great because this type of hospitality matched Jeremy’s personality just like my effusive invitation matched mine. Jeremy loves notes, and he is also rather to the point in his communication style.
We took the cheese tray out to the patio with bottles of crisp sparkling water, and about thirty minutes later they arrived! We ate cheese and talked for three hours. Since then we have become great friends.
For a long time, hospitality seemed elusive to me. It seemed proper and rigid. Pressed white napkins (but where exactly did I put my ironing board?). A formal invitation to a meal (is last minute considered formal?). A roast coming out of the oven just as the guests arrive (I have never in the history of ever mastered this timing).
I need a hospitality that lets me welcome people into my home through my own unique personality. I need a hospitality that is drenched, absolutely soaked, in grace. Because I’ve locked myself out of the house just as guests were arriving. Because I’ve gotten frustrated at conversation not going anywhere. Because I’ve burned the meal before.
This Jesus way of hospitality is changing how we do life at our table. It’s me calling out from my balcony to the world right outside my door. It’s my husband leaving sticky notes on doors.
The table dressed in hospitality looks to the Giver of all things for provision, not to our stuff. The table marked with hospitality says, “You will come as a stranger and leave as a neighbor.” The table that we root in loving others reminds us that we are all here, marked up with the image of God, all sojourners in this foreign land just trying to get Home. And maybe it would be nice if we shared meals along the way?
Perhaps it would change everything if we practiced hospitality through our own unique gifting, just the way God created us.
Maybe this season is the perfect time to put away fancy, rigid hospitality and reach for the kind of hospitality that brings freedom and rest. Maybe we believe that God created us so uniquely for a reason and He wants to extend hospitality through our personality, not in-spite of it.
I’d love to know the unique ways you’ve offered hospitality to those around you. Let’s inspire each other this season! I’ll be calling out from my balcony.
Your turn: How have you offered hospitality to those around you?
Bri McKoy is an accidental home cook, a gatherer of people, an obsessive smiler. Her new book Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace Around the Everyday Table is filled with encouraging, embarrassing, heartbreaking, and joyful stories from her own table. It’s an invitation for you to begin, or continue, your own journey to the table and includes over 20 weeknight meal recipes as well as questions and prayers for the table to inspire you. Connect with her over on Instagram as she shares daily stories and recipes that create space for invitation.Leave a Comment
Beth Williams says
My problem is that I live out in the country & not really close to many people. My pastor’s wife is big on hospitality. Just about every holiday she gets people from church who are single, alone for the day, new to area & has them over for a meal & conversation. They started this a few years ago after buying a house. You never know who all will show up. Sometimes people show up later & join in the conversation. I love the fact that you had cheese, crackers & water. Hospitality isn’t about the meal so much as it is about being with people. Making sure no one stays alone for holidays.
In college I had a neighbor who looked after me. My first night they brought me a plate of food & dessert. They would invite me over for meals & even include me on meals out. I was blessed to know them.
Bri McKoy says
I love that you have memories of hospitality even from college! And what a lovely lady your pastor’s wife must be! Bringing the lonely and alone to our table is such a heart of mine. I feel like it is exactly what Jesus did while He was here on earth! Thank you for reading.
Becky Keife says
I love this, Bri! (Can I be your neighbor?)
I think serving out of our own unique gifting also means not getting hung up on by the things that stress us out. When my boys were little I really wanted to host playdates, but the idea of having to make grown-up food for moms and get my own kids to sit still and eat like civilized tiny humans stressed me out! So I scratched my visions of lunch and started inviting friends over for popsicles in the backyard. Hot coffee and a bag of trail mix were like gold to tired mamas, and really, we all just wanted a life-together friend to get through the day with.
Bri McKoy says
How amazing would it be to be neighbors?! Yes!
I love that you did not let stress keep you from bringing people together but that you found what works for you. And honestly, hot coffee and trail mix sounds like perfection! So grateful for you!