The Secret of Hospitality

The planning of an event is always unpredictable, with unexpected twists and turns along the way, but, somehow, through means I don’t fully understand, the event always turns out perfectly. The planning of a recent Fall Potluck proved no different.

Case in point. The glass jug of apple cider I was excited to serve during dinner fell and shattered on the sidewalk while being transported from the car to the house, leaving our front yard smelling like apple juice for the rest of the evening;  I completely ruined the homemade ice cream (don’t ask!), although my children, never ones to let food go to waste, insisted on eating it anyway; and the carrots in the Chicken and Vegetable Soup were still crisp and crunchy.

And that’s just the food part.

On top of that, our vehicle broke down so I had no way to get to the store to purchase the outside lights I had planned to string in the backyard so we could enjoy the beautiful weather; my front yard was still in a state of disarray (I had hoped to have our landscaping project finished by now), and half the guests cancelled at the last minute (which can happen from time to time).

This last point–half of the guests canceling–caused a real problem for me, a real comfort zone problem.

One of the most exciting things for me when it comes to planning an event is to see who shows up. I invite a hundred people and typically end up with a houseful. A houseful of guests is perfect in my eyes. The guests tend to mingle among themselves, allowing me to hide in the kitchen. My extroverted self loves to bring people together; my introverted self prefers to hide in the shadows where I can easily avoid the glare of the spotlight, as well as too many interactions with others which can be draining for me.

As it turned out, only a handful of people turned out for the potluck. I began to get nervous. It became readily apparent that this time there would be no hiding out in the kitchen; on the contrary, I would be forced into some real interactions.

Seven adults gathered around the dinner table to enjoy hot soup (with crunchy carrots), homemade rolls, salad, green bean casserole, fresh fruit, peach and apple cobbler with ice cream…and {gulp} conversation.

I relented to the pressure of the moment and did my best to engage in conversation. It was difficult, it was uncomfortable, it was, I ultimately realized, just right. Seven unique and “broken” people taking time to sit and eat together, to laugh, to listen, to find commonalities.

It was perfect. It really was. Two friends from our single days, a married couple from the first church congregation we belonged to when we were first married, and a current friend from church coming together for a meal, face-to-face interaction, true connection.

After we bid farewell to the final guest, my children, who had spent much of the day cleaning the house and making other preparations for the event, said to me, “That was so much fun! Everyone was so nice, and the food was so good. Can we have a Fall Potluck with our friends sometime? Our friends could bring their favorite fall food.”

I smiled at the realization that my children understand the secret of hospitality–that it’s rarely easy, that it requires vulnerability, hard work, and personal sacrifice, but that once they push through the discomfort, they are repaid tenfold.

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