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The art of hospitality

October 6, 2015

I am not with the Welcome Wagon, although I maybe should be. One of the best compliments I have ever received was regarding my hospitality. This alone should aver my qualifications! More than once I have told my pastor that someday my front door will be painted red, a symbol of safe harbor and refuge. Need a place for your children or pets? We’ve got you covered. Need a warm hug, meal, or bed? There’s always room at the inn! Need a cup of sugar, a lawn tool, or a costume for your kids? We love to share. Even in our darkest hour, we have desired to be a place where guests feel comfortable. Moments before we told Sawyer that Reed had died as a result of the bus crash, my sweetie and I made a very conscious decision that our home would continue to be the place where people gathered and felt welcomed. Despite the many and varied differences between our childhoods, this is one COMMONALITY our mothers share. If there is food, beds (or floor space), gas in the car, or an item in need, our mothers would be first to offer assistance. They both passed their hospitality genes onto to their children.

Our love of sharing our home with others has blessed us with amazing friends over the years.

Some years back, we got up one Saturday morning and embarked on a typical weekend activity: a trip to the farmer’s market. On our trip home, a moving truck was parked two doors down, signifying the new neighbors had arrived. After unloading our freshly harvested produce, we headed down the street to greet the new neighbors as they were waiting for our college football team to come and help them unpack. When our friends tell this story, they always share the part when after introducing ourselves we ask if they have any children. They explained they had a 13 year old and 5 year old and were flabbergasted when we said, “We do too, with an 11 year old in the middle.” It was the first time in their lives someone didn’t make a snide or judgmental comment about the age gap. Having a sister who is 14 years younger, I would have never entertained the thought.

We didn’t help them unpack, but we did offer to mow their grass and invited them to the backyard movie night we were hosting later that evening. We have been kindred friends, well, really more like family, ever since. I regularly thank God for moving them in just a few doors down. Ours has been an easy friendship with lots of shared adventures, life’s celebrations, a place of refuge in moments of trouble, and plenty of times of gathered around tables.

But there was this one time . . . when I looked like a crazy person running down the street. While I am not officially the town’s welcoming committee, I did try extremely hard to share with our friends all the best things to see, do, visit, eat, and attend around our town for the first year. All was going well until early October, when I burst into their home looking something like Kramer from Seinfeld.

“OH! MY! WORD! I promise Mrs. O’Leary’s cow did not start the town on fire!” came spewing out, before I could explain our local fire department takes Fire Prevention Week very seriously. Every year on the Wednesday evening of FPW, the fire trucks complete with flashing lights and sirens blaring drive up and down every (and I mean EVERY) street in town as a reminder to practice Operation E.D.I.T.H. (Exit Drills In The Home).

My sweet friend had seen the trucks as she drove our Sister and her daughter home from swim practice. As the hurrah made it to our side of town, I jumped up from the dinner table, yelling, “I have to warn the neighbors.” Suddenly, it hit me I forgot to warn them about this time-honored town tradition. Although my entrance was comical, my friends were somewhat concerned about what was going on.

Maybe my dereliction of duty is why I have never been extended an invitation to perform official Welcome Wagon duties. Whatever the reason for this egregious oversight every year about this time; two families have a pretty good laugh!

Our town's fire department is pretty hospitable too! Reed was the first young man to have his birthday party at the Fire Hall.

Our town’s fire department is pretty hospitable too! Reed’s 4th birthday party was at the Fire Hall.

Special Note: If your family does not have a plan to escape in the event of fire, today is the perfect day to plan and practice one. Know your escape routes, practice fire safety with your children, and have a meeting place. We have crawled through windows. We have practiced not going back to get our family pets if conditions are not safe; no matter how heartbreaking that would be. We have felt for hot doors, and planned alternative routes, working to get out safely and meet at our designated gathering spot. If you happen to be in our town on Wednesday, you will see us at the mailbox, and then you will hear a whole of lot of “remember when Mom ran down the street”. Now that’s the stuff that makes memories!

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