“Sorry, I will never have you over to my house”, said my new friend who took me out for lunch after we moved into the area. She was a sweetheart to host a lunch out, but I couldn’t help feeling like there was a part of her that I would never be allowed to know. I’m sure my friend thought I’d think less of her if I saw her home.
Let’s face it. Our homes are the places where we can be real. This is where we love, fight, play, do our hobbies, show our heritage, rest, read, eat, relate, etc. When we want to open ourselves to someone new, perhaps to help them, befriend them, share our lives with them then that means being real. It means that everything isn’t perfect but that we’re willing to trust our family, friends, and guests to love us or at least accept us “as is”.
That also means that we must never judge our hosts’ efforts, but receive their gifts of hospitality graciously. I learned this lesson in China.
Back in April of 2012, my husband and I along with our daughter, Anna traveled to China to vist all the wonderful people we had met while they had been at Cornell University, located in our home town of Ithaca, NY. One of our hosts took us to a hotel in a rural Naxi village northwest of Lijiang, close to the Tibet border. It was of very traditional construction, set in a courtyard style. My American hyper-clean, germophobic self was initially appalled by the room that we were ushered into. The sewer pipe was exposed and gave off a horrendous odor. Our sheets were moldy. The rickety ladder to the loft where Anna would sleep wasn’t attached. “Lord,” I prayed, “I can’t complain or I will insult my host. Help me to get over this.”
I am not exaggerating when I say that this was the most amazing three days of our whole trip. We really felt like we had a real experience, living like the Naxi people. Every morning the hotel owner greeted us with an invitation to join him for a traditional tea pour. And as we drank tea we chatted. Anna discovered he had a dog who just had puppies. She was in love. We learned his family lived far away and he hoped to soon have enough money saved to bring them to live with him. The air was so fresh and the sky so blue – quite a change from the smog in Shanghai and Bejing. I cringe when I think how close I came to missing this amazing treasure on the other side of the world!
So… here are my tips for easy authentic entertaining.
- Keep your living area generally picked up. I never have to go to great lengths to clean my house before company comes because I spend a little time each day keeping up with the clutter.
- Plan on a simple meal so you can focus on your guests. Plan ahead!
- Use paper plates for easy clean up (use your china for your family!)
- If anyone asks you, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Always say, “Yes”, and put them to work.
- Remember that you don’t have to clean your whole house, nor do you have to have fresh paint and everything looking like the HGTV channel. When people come to your home they want to be with YOU, and usually they don’t care about the state of your house.
- Avoid fussing about stuff when your guests arrive. They will feel like they are an imposition if you are too busy to enjoy them.