“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”
I relate this quote to hospitality, because many times people are intimidated by that word. We think that in order to “entertain” the right way, things have to be perfect. We make ourselves the center of attention, and forget the beauty of relationship is in making others feel welcome and safe, thus creating beauty for others. We put off ever having people into our homes, because our kitchens don’t look like something out of a magazine, or maybe we have kids who leave piles of endless toys everywhere, and we feel embarrassed.
I can relate to this very well, as my house is almost 100 years old. It is anything but modern. It has “character,” which is another word for cute, and it doesn’t have a very open floor plan. When I have friends over, everyone crowds into my tiny kitchen, and I can hardly think straight. As I am cooking, my awareness shifts to the paint that is chipping off of my old cabinets, and the crumbs I didn’t have a chance to clean up before everyone arrived. I could think of endless excuses not to have people over, due to the imperfection of my surroundings.
Sometimes when I ask myself what it means to make life beautiful for others when it comes to hosting, and why I should keep inviting people into my space when I feel so imperfect, my mind goes to the times when I have enjoyed being with someone so much that time passes without my even realizing it. Sometimes the beautiful surroundings feel significant, but mostly the memories resonate because of the people I was with.
What does it mean to be a great host? Whether you are preparing a five course meal on your own, or having me cater it for you, (which in my opinion, the second option is definitely the way to go…sorry, couldn’t resist!), being a great host implies making your guests feel important.
Everyone wants to feel known and accepted for who they are. Of course they will remember the food, and beautiful setting, but none of that matters if they don’t leave your event feeling in some way connected or valued.
Some people are just naturals at making people feel like they are the only one in the room. The people that come to my mind do certain things causing me to feel immediately at ease. They do the following:
When I come to their door, they stop what they are doing and answer. Even if their significant other or child gets to the door first, they still make a point of greeting me. This feels important.
Secondly, there is some type of physical touch that is appropriate to everyone’s comfort level. For me, since I am part Italian, I can’t get enough kisses. One per cheek is grand, and with my French friends, there is another bonus kiss! Some people do hugs only, and for others, (Swedes like my hubby and lots of other friends), a firm handshake or pat on the back will suffice. No judgment here..the main thing is to know what your guests are comfortable with. Just to connect in some small way feels welcoming.
Something else I like is when the person I am talking to maintains eye contact, and their body language is open and engaging. My brother is an example of someone who not only does these things, but he excels at turning the conversation away from himself to others. Every time I see him, his first words are always something to the effect of “What’s new with you?” Open ended questions like this along with his undivided attention to my answers speaks beauty into my life, because it expresses his desire to really know what is happening. Listening intently is such a gift to others.
I am still learning not to feel like everything has to be perfect before I can have friends over. People feel honored when invited to share life with you. If it feels daunting, just make a list of maybe two people you would like to have over this month. Then enjoy every minute getting to know them. The rewards far outweigh the risk of not seeming altogether perfect.
It may seem ironic that a caterer whose job it is to create an idyllic environment is telling you to focus on more than just the exterior, but I think there is a healthy balance. Perfection is a myth at best. True community is based on transparency and authenticity. Houses get messy, but so does life. That being said, there are so many ways to make someone’s life beautiful using your own gifts!