A Small Victory in Hospitality-Land

Last night we threw a dinner party. For ten people. It was a last minute decision. We’d been wanting to have my husband’s “team” from work over sometime and on Monday he realized that a few were heading back to Europe this weekend (I will not try to explain the complexity and fluidity of Chris’ company and how often people are going back and forth to Europe). So we pulled it together.

Chris and I both love having our home filled with people. We loved our lifestyle when I was on staff with Young Life: leaders dropping by and sometimes sleeping on the couch, high school kids watching movies or driving past to say hi. We miss that.

So, a last minute dinner, especially when my husband is mostly in charge of cooking, is not a big deal to me. While people are in my home I feel like a hummingbird. For better or worse, my wings (not literally, people) wind up and I float around from conversation to conversation, filling glasses, checking on the food, reminding people of the bread and cheese. I’m in love with guests.

What is a big deal to me is the preparation work and the clean up. It’s not because I’m opposed to cleaning the house. I do it often (enough, I think) and sometimes even enjoy it. My problem is when I FEEL like a housewife. The difference is subtle and it’s mostly in my head. But yesterday, as I spent August’s nap time not writing (as I usually do) but ironing a tablecloth and napkins, mopping floors, scrubbing the toilet, I noticed a lie slithering up into my little hummingbird brain: This is all you do with your life, it said. Your husband works all day while you iron napkins in a super cute floral apron.

I imagined what Chris’ women coworkers would think of me and my life, if they would snicker behind my back that I must have been ironing in the middle of the afternoon while they closed deals and walked confidently down carpeted hallways in pointy toed shoes. (Why is that my image of women in the workplace?)

So, yes, I had that thought. Big deal, you’re thinking. Micha, you have crazy thoughts about yourself every day…that’s all you write about in this blog. That’s fair.

But what I want you to know is that it didn’t end with that thought. I didn’t let the little liar worm eat my brains. In the moment that the worm showed up, suddenly God was near and I remembered: I am now a monk! This is my job! I iron tablecloths, not because I’m lame with nothing else to do, but because I get to love 10 of Chris’ coworkers today. And I’m going to do it by scrubbing that freakin toilet.

Here is the difference between what I’ve always assumed about hospitality and what I learned during August’s naptime yesterday: It’s all about my mind and what it’s consumed with. I cannot be consumed with myself and be hospitable. If I’m consumed with myself (even if those thoughts are negative), I’m simply a host. Nothing more. When the physical work becomes about the other person, that’s when it becomes hospitality.

August woke up and he and I kept working. (He has his own broom.) As I vacuumed and put away toys I kept thinking about St. Benedict, wanting to tell him, “Benedict, buddy, I’m getting it!”

After dinner, our guests and my husband walked down the street to get some ice cream and a drink. Of course, I couldn’t go. August was sleeping in the next room and it was good for Chris to spend that time with his coworkers. However, the miracle continued. As I watched them walk out the front door I actually had this thought: “I get to practice hospitality right now.” I walked straight to the kitchen. Without feeling shame for my failures as a liberated woman, I carried each dish to sink. I washed. I rinsed. And I believed, maybe for one the first times, that out of that group of ten people I’d shared a meal with, I was the one being blessed.

I’m grateful that my following The Rule of St. Benedict is not just writing ploy or a series of silly rules that make for clever storytelling. It’s a spiritual practice that just might be changing my life.

Comments

  1. David Henson says:

    “This is all you do with your life”

    Good lord, you are inside my head. Maybe I should go pick up The Rule of St. Benedict, too.

    I get these images of my male friends being doctors, lawyers, professional writers or academics and get really bummed. But the most frustrating part is that I’m happier at home than I was in the workplace; and the only times I’m unhappy is when I let the above thoughts get the best of me, which is far too often.

    Crap, I’m oversharing again.

    Suffice it say, thanks for the post. Off to amazon…

  2. Carrie says:

    Thank you for this post. I need to read it more often!

  3. Kristen says:

    You know what? I’m starting to think no matter what we do with our lives, we all struggle with the feeling that we could/should be doing more. This post was good for me.

  4. Catherine Dana says:

    I am crying. I miss you. I am proud of you. Your writing voice is so true to your in-person voice. Get here now!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] that I know could change the world. It matters. But it’s hard to believe that when my mean brain worm keeps snuffing out my worth at home just like the crazy landlady from last week who couldn’t [...]

  2. [...] shooed him away from the dishes, assured him that I could clean on my own, reminded myself that the dishes were just as much a part of practicing hospitality as the welcoming and the meal and the laughter. It’s just that when I was about ten minutes into [...]