Hospitality: What does it mean to you? I thought I practiced it…but did I really?
Wooden picnic tables sat in four evenly spaced rows across the dark reunion-sized room. I made my way around the perimeters raising the brown canvas shades from the tall windows. Light gradually filled the cold room’s spaces. On the far side of the room, was a door to the hallway. I went through it continuing with my investigations and light-letting.
Our new house was large and spacious feeling with plenty of windows and high ceilings, an old house in an established neighborhood. Though closed in by smaller houses, it reigned—Queen of the street.
As I passed back along the hall twenty minutes later, I took another look at the porch room. I wondered why the previous owners built it so large, why they added the kitchen area against the inner wall, why they left all the tables, and what I would use it for. With a prick of surprise, I noticed a woman and three children seated at one of the tables. The mother took sandwiches from a cooler while the children sipped at straws stuck in juice boxes.
The scene was cheerful and peaceful enough to make me stop myself at asking who they were and how they came to be enjoying their lunch on my porch. As I stood processing the situation, a hardy rap at the back door startled me. The door opened and a smiling man entered to place a brown paper sack on the counter.
“Here you go, Ma’am. Here’s your supplies for the month. The boys down at the fire station will be bringing them by each month for you. We gotcha two bottles of catsup, mustard, mayo, and a couple jars of sweet relish. Need anything else, just let us know. Oh, and my name’s Sam Peters. Call me Sam.”
“Hello, Sam, but you’ll have to excuse me. I don’t understand. See that lady with the children over there? I don’t know them. They’re having a picnic.”
“Oh, yeah, a cute family. She brings them here a lot. This is such a great room.”
“But, I mean that it’s my house! They are having a picnic here and I don’t know them—never even met them!
“Well, I see. Pretty soon you’ll know ever’body. The whole town uses this room; been using it for years. It’s like a park shelter—open to anyone. We love it!”
“But it’s my house,” I declared flatly, “I live here now!”
“Well sure, and we’re proud to welcome you. Don’t you worry none about things. We supply all this extry stuff folks might wanna borry,” he said, as he pulled catsup from the brown grocery bag. “That a-way folks can help theirselves and not bother you a bit. I ‘preciate your keeping the porch open. Folks use it year round, ‘specially in bad weather. Gotta get back,” Sam said, letting the screen door bang behind him.
I put away the supplies and watched the family at the table. The toddlers climbed up and down the benches. Their laugher and happy voices warmed the scene. The sun shone in through the high windows and across my bed to wake me from my dream.
The porch dream mystified and amused me. I haven’t moved. I still live in my old farmhouse in the country. But, this was one of those “real” dreams, you know? A dream that made me rethink “Hospitality.” Thinking about it when I woke, I remembered a little picnic basket my daughter Rachel bought at a thrift store. It was probably a Mary Engelbreit basket, with a cluster of cherries on the front along with the words: “Life is a Picnic.”
Yep, life is a picnic and it’s at my house (and maybe at yours). The Lord tells us in I Peter 4 to show hospitality without grudging. He says, “Open your homes to one another, without complaining.” He asks us to open our homes, to share our food, to serve, to provide for the needs of our fellow Christians, to welcome into our homes and our hearts the traveler, the unwanted, the poor, even the stranger.
In the dream, the house belonged to me; yet I wouldn’t refuse the town people the room. It was too wonderful. The firemen provided for my needs just as God does in my real life. Sharing my home may seem a hardship or an invasion of my privacy, but it isn’t. It is a blessing like a picnic and what picnic is not a good thing? What picnic is an intrusion?
A friend once said to me, “You sure have a lot of company. God must be trying to teach you something!” That’s right; He is always trying to teach me something, because I am one of His and He loves me. I don’t see the chance to show hospitality as a punishment, but as a blessing. God trusted me with plenty to share and room to share it in.
Life is a picnic and it’s at my house. Come on in!
Elece Hollis is a writer and photographer from Oklahoma. She is a mother of seven and grandma to twenty-four. She and her husband Ron own a family farm, a small herd of beef cows and a pecan orchard. Elece likes to paint
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