Commentary: Tips for Practicing Everyday Hospitality

Waitress Customer
by Aletheia Hitz


It’s not hard to imagine grandiose examples of hospitality. The older woman who hosts a crop of teenagers in her home every Thursday night. The man who frequently invites church visitors to his family’s Sunday dinner. The neighbor who throws quarterly block parties and welcomes the whole town.

In these situations, hospitality is obvious (and, let’s admit, impressive). But for those of us who don’t have the financial means or living space to host large dinners or parties, offering hospitality can seem elusive. For me, without a house of my own, hospitality can even feel impossible.

In this vein, I was encouraged by a piece on hospitality written by Meredith Schultz. Schultz emphasizes the multi-faceted nature of hospitality, providing strategies for everybody—regardless of financial or spatial limitations—to practice hospitality. Because even if our hospitality doesn’t involve big events or large-scale agendas, it can still affect our daily lives.

With that in mind, here are three of Schultz’s methods for practicing everyday hospitality.

1. Be Attentive

It’s hard to overestimate the value of attentiveness. Attention demonstrates regard for the person present, showing that the listener truly cares about the speaker’s thoughts and experiences. Regarding attentiveness, Schultz says this:

In an increasingly distracted society, giving your undivided attention is one of the most meaningful acts of welcome. Although digital communication has softened the blow of modern mobility, it poses a formidable obstacle to presence of mind. Unless it is an imminent responsibility, the simple practice of keeping the cell phone stowed during conversations protects mental boundaries and is a tremendous show of respect to guests.

Indeed, simple physical acts—such as putting away a digital device, sitting with your back to the restaurant TV, or reminding yourself to look your conversation partner in the eyes—can go a long way toward displaying and cultivating attentiveness.

2. Keep It Simple

Oftentimes, hospitality won’t be perfect. There may be dirty dishes in the sink, a stain on the living room carpet, or a toddler throwing peas at the kitchen wall. And while imperfection isn’t an excuse for scruffy hospitality, sometimes it can pave the way for deeper connections and relationships. Schultz says it well:

However humble our homeplaces—dorm rooms, crowded group houses, or attic apartments—we should not forsake them for trendier third places. Meeting at home, instead of Starbucks or a Sunday school room, is an act of self-disclosure that interrupts our independence. When you open your home, you open up part of yourself, dirty dishes and unfolded laundry included. This act of vulnerability paves the way for guests to open up as well.

In other words, it shows you’re human and allows your guest to be, too.

3. Leave Unstructured Time

When we guard ourselves from having constant obligations, we give ourselves the liberty to serve the impromptu needs of those around us. We can make dinner for a suddenly sick housemate, stop by and comfort a grieving friend, or stay after a church event to help clean up. And while our schedules are a necessary aspect of our lives, we don’t need to keep every slot of time filled.

“If we fill every spare moment of our lives,” Schultz says, “we will not be free to welcome unexpected guests or have the energy to care for them. Leaving unstructured time in our schedules is a countercultural act.”

Practicing hospitality is not at all impossible—even for those of us with limited space and resources. Simple actions, or even a certain attitude, can go a long way toward making people feel welcome, and it allows all of us to partake in the benefits of sharing our time, our energy, and ourselves.

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Aletheia Hitz is a student, writer, and invested lover of philosophy. She enjoys exploring significant ideas, and she’s passionate about helping others think well.




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