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My husband has never been what I would call hospitable. While he lovingly supports my efforts to invite people into our home and around our table, it has always made him feel a little uncomfortable. He prefers to reach out to others behind the scenes, where it feels a bit safer, a bit more…well, comfortable. When it comes to reaching out to others, he prefers to be ‘up and doing’, rather than sitting around a table.
For me, it is a kitchen table chair that fans the flame of my hospitality.
Our family of five sits at a table built for six. The empty sixth chair sits, glaring at me, directly across the table.
“We should make more of an effort to fill that empty chair. Surely there are many who would appreciate a warm meal and some friendly conversation.” It’s a thought that comes to me often as I sit across from that empty chair.
“Who would I invite?” I wondered, hesitantly considering the prompting.
A name instantly came to mind.
“But it will be Christmas Eve,” I thought. “Surely everyone already has plans for Christmas Eve. And what of OUR family’s traditions? It just wouldn’t be the same if we had a stranger join us.”
My attempts to hide the prompting under a pile of so-called valid assumptions seemed to be working and I went back to work—dishes, laundry, wrapping Christmas gifts.
Later that night, I found myself listening to a talk on compassion. Rev. James Forbes explained that, as a boy, he and his family had cherished Christmas traditions, which included opening gifts, special prayers, singing carols at the upright piano, breakfast, and kids running around in their pajamas. He remembers well one Christmas when his father announced that a guest would be joining them for their Christmas family celebration. Rev. Forbes, as a boy, did not like that idea at all. He said to his mother,
“[Daddy] must be out of his mind. This is OUR time. This is INTIMATE time. This is when we can just be who we are. Why would daddy invited someone? Any other time, but not to the Christmas celebration!”
His mother thoughtfully answered him,
“If you really understand the nature of this celebration, it is that this is the time when you extend the circle of love. That’s what the celebration is all about. It’s time to make space, to share the enjoyment of life in a beloved community.”
And so Elder Rubins joined their family Christmas celebration that year.
And I, in that moment, knew that we would invite someone to join our celebration.
The next morning my husband made the phone call.
The invitation to join us for a Christmas Eve dinner and our traditional Christmas Eve family night movie was accepted.
My kids, who would soon be decked out in their pajamas and settling in on their mattresses, which were set up for the night in the living room under the Christmas tree, looked at me accusingly, and someone stammered,
“But we’ll be in our PAJAMAS, Mom!”
I smiled and shared with them the concerns Reverend Forbes had as a boy, and the wise counsel of his mother.
The expressions on the kids’ faces changed; they were seeing things from a different perspective.
With the scent of roasted chicken in the air, we finished our dinner preparations.
Soon, the doorbell rang. Warmly, and somewhat nervously, we invited our guest in. What followed was a simple evening, with every chair at our table full.
A light dinner, conversation and laughter, a Christmas movie by the Christmas tree, and warm Christmas wishes as we bid our guest farewell.
Afterwards, my husband followed me to the kitchen.
“Wow,” he said excitedly, leaning up against the sink, “that was neat! In the past, he (our guest) has always felt more like an acquaintance. But tonight, he felt more like…well, more like…a friend.”
He paused for a moment, then looked at me and said, “Thank you for suggesting that we invite him over. That was just so neat!”
I smiled and, glancing over at the dinner table, noticed that the ’empty’ chair didn’t seem to be glaring at me…for the moment anyway.
But it will glare at me again. I know it will. And when it does, I’m grateful that I’ll have the full support, encouragement, and enthusiasm of my husband, my HOSPITABLE husband, as we attempt to fill every empty chair in our home.
Food is lifeblood. It’s part of us. With it being our most primal need, we are part of it and most importantly part of each other: When we gather around a table,we’re passing more than just plates. There’s an alchemical and spiritual exchange that happens; a fulfillment of not only stomachs, but of mind and spirit and heart. ~ Meghan Faulkner, Artful Blogging (Vol. 10, Issue 1), p. 25
Day 21 Challenge: When might you invite someone to join you around the table? Act on any promptings you receive.
This is Day 21 of my Write 31 Days series for 2017: 31 Days to an Authentic Life.
For an index of all the posts in the series, please click HERE.