No, I don’t mean cute little bunny rabbits. How could anyone be afraid of a soft, cuddly bunny rabbit. What I am talking about is Dust Bunnies!
But first let’s talk about hospitality. What do you think of when you think of hospitality? Is it fancy foods, bringing out the good china and the fancy tablecloths? If so, then I think you’ve got it all wrong.
According to Dictionary.com, hospitality isn’t about your fancy china, instead it’s all about the way you treat people–both guests and strangers alike.
noun, plural hos·pi·tal·i·ties.
1 the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers. 2 the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
We often confuse entertaining with hospitality, but the true difference is in where your focus lies. Is your focus on trying to impress your guests or is it on making them feel welcomed and wanted. Often, if your focus is on trying to impress your guests, they may be impressed but they are also likely to feel like they need to impress you in return. They may feel pressure to say all the right things and they may be more worried about using the right fork rather than about just sharing life with you. I know that’s not how you want people to feel when they’re in your home.
When my girls were all in the baby/toddler stage I was working on planning an event with my friend Karen. She and I had made plans to meet up to do the shopping for the event. My darling husband was planning to be home before she arrived at our house to pick me up, which meant that I could just watch for her and run out the door to meet her when she arrived. But you know what they say about the best laid plans. My darling husband was late getting home and when my friend arrived I had to let her into my home. I was slightly mortified. You see, there was Tupperware, Rubbermaid and other plastic ware strung from one end of my house to the other. It was pretty much everywhere. The reason my house looked like a plastic ware monsoon had hit was because the cabinet where I kept all of those items was on ground level and it had become one of my girls favorite resources for toys. They absolutely loved playing in that cabinet and because it had been a busy day of just being a mom, I hadn’t had time to get all of that plastic ware back into the cabinet before my friend arrived. I felt truly embarrassed when I opened the door and Karen walked into my home.
But guess what happened. Karen walked in, took a look around and said, “Oh, I am so glad that your house looks like this too!”
What an interesting moment that was for me. Twenty years later and I still remember it quite clearly because it made a big impression on me. My friend wasn’t judging me for not being perfect and I didn’t need to impress her. She was my friend! And in fact, she was glad to see that I wasn’t perfect either.
Another friend of my mine, Patti, used to say to me, “If you are coming to see my house, don’t bother. But if you are coming over to see me, c’mon!”
Patti had an amazing gift for hospitality. One time when I was pregnant with one of my girls Patti called me and told me that she was making spaghetti for dinner and that she had accidentally made way too much. She told me I would be doing her a big favor if I would take some of it off of her hands. She showed up at my door a short time later with spaghetti, salad and garlic bread….and I still didn’t catch on until much later.
I don’t know how long it took me to figure out that Patti wanted to provide dinner for my family without giving me that chance to let my pride get in the way. If she had just called and said she wanted to bring me dinner I would have told her that she didn’t need to do that and I probably would not have accepted her very gracious gift…a fully prepared dinner for a weary, pregnant wife and mom. Instead, she somehow convinced me that I was doing her a favor. Pretty sneaky.
What does all of this have to do with the fear of dust bunnies? Maybe you are a super, immaculate housekeeper. Unfortunately, I must fess up. I am not. Before we recently lost our dog, we had a tremendous amount of dog hair in our home and no amount of sweeping ever seemed to find it all. No matter how much I swept it always seemed like as soon as people arrived a big ole dust bunny would come rolling out from somewhere. If people showed up unexpectedly, it was even worse because it was likely that the floor hadn’t been swept for a day or two.
Guess what I finally decided to do. I decided that I just needed to get over myself. My darling daughters will tell you that in days gone by when we knew we were expecting guests I would make them clean every corner of our house. They would often protest “But Mom, no one is even going to go in there. They won’t know.” Ah, but I would know!
These days, I have significantly lowered my standards. Of course I tidy up a bit when I know guests are coming and I clear out some of the clutter but I really only focus on making the common areas of our home presentable. Please don’t ask to see my bathroom when you are here! Lowering my standards has actually helped me relax and enjoy my guests more. When a random dust bunny comes rolling out these days I just scoop it up and proclaim, “Guess I missed that one!” and I move on. Actually, I kind of think my dust bunnies might make my home a more warm and welcoming place. Clearly my guests can see that I’m not perfect and hopefully that let’s them know they don’t have to be perfect either. Lowering my standards a bit has also made me much more welcoming of unexpected guests.
As my friend Patti would say: “If you came to see my house, don’t bother. But if you came to see me, come on in!”
My encouragement to you today is just make friends with your dust bunnies. They will definitely keep you humble. Pull out your mismatched dishes or some paper plates. Grab some papertowels for napkins. Serve delivery pizza if you want. Face your fears and invite someone into your home and into your life. People aren’t coming to judge your home. They are coming to share their life with you. They want to be wanted and included and known. There is no better way to do that than by inviting them to come around your table. That’s where the magic happens.
So what are you waiting for? Get to it!
Drop me a comment below and let me know about your experiences–good or bad– with practicing hospitality.