The awkwardness of hospitality

Submitted by Nastinia Bailey on December 20, 2013 - 8:21pm

If you're doing it right, it's going to feel awkward. That's my theory after reading and musing on a friend's blog about hospitality. I thought I was the only one who had many cringe moments when trying to build community and be hospitable! I thought it was because I am an introvert. Now I realize, it's not just me! Here is how he puts it:

"I began to understand that hospitality is not often the jolly, fire-lit, “there’s-more-than-enough-food” fiesta that we romanticize at Christmas. It’s usually pretty awkward and inconvenient, like the pregnant woman showing up without a reservation and asking to sleep in the shed."

It's not usually a Martha Stewert laid table in the backyard with happy neighbours, it is being flexible and giving the benefit of the doubt. My friend, Lowell Brown, puts it so well:

"But the longer I live here, the more I think hospitality is simply a human choice. Wherever we are, from biblical Palestine to harried Manhattan to historied Lancaster County, we are given an opportunity for awkwardness—a chance to be compassionate to someone who, perhaps, doesn’t deserve it. Someone who’s naïve. Who shows up late. Who doesn’t follow protocol. Who should have planned better. "

Gulp! I'm the one that gets annoyed at lateness and poor planning... I'm going to be noticing the awkwardness and inconvenience of building community now and instead of thinking I'm doing something wrong or I should flee the situation, I'm going to try to choose to be flexible and generous.

I'm the late one!

I am also an introvert-however this is only a new revelation.

I'm trying to understand after my early years of being early or on-time, why I became the late one. Despite my "advancing years" and after 40 years working in the Social Service system, I recall my early work experiences as a social worker in Children's Aid. I would have appointments with families and they didn't like it if I came early, so I tried to be right on time. As years went on within the profession, no meeting started on time as we were always waiting for someone to show up. This continued into my work life experience so much that I would find excuses for why I couldn't be timely...a phone call I shouldn't have taken, an accident on my way to work...I found a million of them. It became habit, an unpleasant one. In my current work, I confess to families that I walk alongside that I am working on this bad habit and to feel free to call me on it. I also explain that I mean no disrespect and that I definitely will call to let them know when I'm running, so they don't think I'm dead on the side of the road.

I am grateful for forgiveness, flexibility and generosity of others, like Nastinia. It is my nature to be honest and transparent, willing to share my strengths and those qualities of which I'm not so proud. Aren't we all works in progress, formed by our experiences in life. If we can be present in those moments, recognize and be the change we like to see in others I believe that is what builds community. ( an aside I have also learned if you are late to a meeting where there is food offerings and you are can only blame yourself for the slim pickings).



great insights!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and those of your friend on hospitality- it's a really helpful way to frame it.

Hospitality can be and is awkward- it's not a clean-cut, perfect situation. This has been my experience, for sure!

For more thoughts on hospitality, see this series of blogs by Rebecca Seiling- you might find them interesting!