Recently I flipped through some family photo albums, enjoying the 3D memories that popped up from flat pages of pictures. A favorite photo shows my two year old sons sitting on a bench in our front yard next to three of their playmates, all spooning vanilla ice cream dripping with chocolate sauce into their mouths. The parents are outside the picture’s frame, but I can still see them milling around the front driveway and talking about their children’s milestones between bites of their own sundaes.
That neighborhood was a joy to live in, partly because we made the most of the laid-back hours between dinner and bedtime by holding all kinds of impromptu, front yard get-togethers. We didn’t need a special occasion or an excuse to hang out. We grown-ups just liked to give each other a little time and attention while our little ones rode tricycles back and forth across the cul-de-sac.
Our family has made three cross-country moves since then, and my sons are now almost sixteen. They have a younger sister who is twelve. Gone is the deep need to get them out and wear them out before bedtime. But what’s also gone is room in my schedule for carefree get-togethers at our house. This isn’t so much true for my kids’ friends who travel in and out our front door frequently. But it’s painfully true for my own friends. It seems that if social time is to happen for my husband and I, it must be planned out, written in bold black ink on the calendar pages.
I can accurately blame some of this on the realities of our family’s current stage, when figuring out where the five of us need to be any given day requires a bit of scheduling Tetris. Planning ahead is a definite necessity. But with the mindset that so much forethought has to be given to every social gathering as well, the natural result is that it’s not going to happen as much.
At the Allume conference last October, I heard Shauna Niequist say a most marvelous thing about our job as hospitality makers. This isn’t an exact quote, but her words went something like:
“When people leave our homes, they should leave feeling better than when they arrived.”
I am amazed at how easily I make simple things complicated. Being a hospitality maker is simple because the only thing you have to think about is giving care to the one visiting. That doesn’t mean I have to probe and prod to find out her deepest troubles or concerns. That also doesn’t mean I have to serve a meal that wins approval from a Food Network Chef. It just means I simply sit with my guest and listen without demanding she listen to me in return. It’s serving her the simplest of offerings: my agenda-free attention.
Perhaps this is why so many of us find fulfillment in our calling to write. Our blogs are the front porches of our hearts, and no matter its size, we find it’s a simple way to offer our attention without demanding it in return. How that must absolutely delight our Father in heaven!
There is something to be said about the impromptu get-together, of throwing figurative confetti in the air just because it’s Thursday and inviting a friend or two over for ice cream, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or plain ol’ conversation. But as we consider when to invite others to the front porch of our homes and our hearts, may we not over plan our hospitality right off the calendar page. May we remember that as long as we answer the call to give attention to others without demanding theirs in return, we are true hospitality makers. And may we relax knowing that simple is always, always enough.
Author of Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life’s Transitions (available for preorder now).