Essay: The Super Hostess I am Not

When it comes to hospitality, it is easy to think that's someone else's super power. We watch a grandma graciously feeding 30 people Thanksgiving dinner without breaking a sweat and we're sure she was born with those skills. We see a friend who engages guests of other religions in spiritual discussion and forget that he's spent years honing those conversational skills. If we want to sound spiritual, we excuse ourselves by saying that hospitality is a gift—a gift that we don't have. We make up reasons why hospitality is just something we can't do well.

"We excuse ourselves saying that hospitality is a super power or a gift that we don't have."

At one point in my life, the people around me who were hospitable all seemed to fit a particular genre: they were clean, organized, excellent cooks, lived in nice homes and possibly decorated with floral patterns before floral patterns came back into style. I don't fit that stereotype. Actually, a lot of my traits don't lend themselves well to being someone who opens her home regularly. Maybe you can relate.

I am not super clean.

I wish I were neater and probably my husband wishes that, too. But the natural me collects clutter, vacuums around but not under, and delays going to the laundromat as long as possible. Before guests come over, I often have some serious cleaning to do. While I'm learning to acknowledge laziness in my heart and develop systems to keep the house cleaner, I'm also realizing that the core of hospitality isn't about how clean I am. 

I am not super organized.

Sometimes people who don't know me too closely think I must be organized, because the final product I produce (a party, an event, a blog) can look well planned. However, when they work closely with me, they see what a tangled path I take to those organized-looking ends. I really have to force myself to do tasks in order and make lists. I'm the hostess who remembers one hour before the guests arrive that I wanted to make cold tea, but I haven't even steeped tea bags yet, let alone chilled them. 

I am not a super cook.

Well, you can taste my cooking and let me know what you think, but my cooking skills are a work in progress. No one is born knowing how to make the perfect pot roast or when to take cookies out of the oven to keep them chewy. Some people have a head start, because their parents were enthusiastic cooks or their grandmothers taught them all their best recipes. But as for me, sometimes I still take things to potlucks and—let's just say that they aren't crowd favourites. But ultimately, cooking well just takes practice. I'm acquiring more confidence with each meal cooked,  realizing that I can become a better cook than I'd imagined.

I don't live in a super house.

A friend from Canada visited us in Germany and when she walked into our dining room, she said, "This is small!" She was trying to understand how we could fit ten people around our dining room table, like in a picture I had sent her. Nothing about our 47 square meter (500 sq. ft.) fourth floor, no-elevator apartment with a tiny fridge and freezer makes it a super hospitality house by Western standards. But to most people, a real invitation into a real house matters much more than a future invitation into the super house that we don't have yet. 

I am not super girly.

Floral dishes, pearls, collector spoons, bone china? So not me. Pink? Please, no. But I've realized that being hospitable or being feminine are not the same as being girly. In fact, in the Bible one of the qualifications given for men who will lead in the church is that they must be hospitable, which means it's something men should pursue just as much as women. Hospitality is about meeting the needs of your guest, not about being girly. And besides, it's easier to host when I don't wear high heels.

"The more we have our international neighbours or lonely locals over, I realize they're just glad we invited them."

I could have used any or all of these reasons to decide that hospitality is not for me. I could have started a blog about why I don't show hospitality, instead. But the more we practice hospitality, we realize that our guests aren't running their fingers along the countertops to see if I wiped them down, or questioning the size of our dining room. They're just glad we showed some un-super hospitality and invited them in. 

Hospitality isn't for supers, it's for servants.