Joy and Hurts of Hospitality by Amy Boucher Pye

by Christine Sine

Photo captured on a sunset-hunting expedition with an artistic visitor.

A wonderful post on hospitality from Amy Boucher Pye from 2014–

Sometimes, hospitality hurts. We extend ourselves and welcome people into our homes, anticipating times of engaging conversation and laughter. But afterwards, we find ourselves drained in body, mind, and spirit. We become tempted to pull up the drawbridge and keep our castle to ourselves for a time.

Our family has just come through a time of intense hospitality. Each weekend through the spring and summer, we hosted various groups of friends and family. As we’ve been gifted with the use of a large and wonderful vicarage, we’ve always had the policy of saying “yes” when people want to stay. So this spring we said yes, and yes. And yes and yes and yes some more. Until we weren’t sure how we would cope. In fact, Nicholas and I had just agreed that we’d not have anymore visitors when I opened up a social-networking site and glimpsed a request from one of my favorite people – someone I hadn’t seen in years. How could we pass up the opportunity of hosting them? “The speech bubble is still over my head,” I thought, musing over the decision my husband and I had agreed. “I hope he sees the irony…”

Don’t get me wrong, we loved having people to stay; what we struggled with was the timing of the many visits. Mainly: Why did they bunch themselves up together in an unrelenting cluster?

We were given an out at the end of the summer, and though hesitant, I took it. The friends who were to arrive just days after the kids and I dragged our jetlagged bodies home from two weeks in the States got in touch to say that the family they were visiting were all struck with the flu. The violent vomiting and diarrhea kind. Our friends had been exposed, so they said they’d understand if we wanted them to find an alternative place to stay.

Normally I would shrug off fears of sickness, but knowing how tired we were, and not being able to face tidying up the house again while so foggy in mind and body, and contemplating packing up my son for his camp the day they’d arrive, and with the thought of body fluids being expelled so unpleasantly, I accepted their offer not to stay. Yes, I felt guilty. And yes, I labored over the decision. But it was right to say no; thankfully they were able to extend their stay where they were, avoiding a huge hotel bill.

Sparklers and panache.

Sparklers and panache.

I’m learning we don’t always have to say yes.

But the joys of serving and welcoming weary visitors outweighs the challenges. Reflecting on our summer of hospitality, I’ve jotted down a few things to celebrate.

Serving shapes our character. I’m selfish. I like doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. But hosting guests gives us an opportunity to put the needs of others before ourselves. We seek to make them comfortable; we give them the big piece of pie; we seek to make stimulating conversation. We’re reminded that it’s not all about us.

We receive, even when we give. Providing hospitality isn’t something we do to gain in return, but without fail, we will receive from our guests. The gift might be intangible: a particular insight about a problem we face; the love expressed in ways individual to them; affirming words; acts of service (is a night of babysitting tangible or intangible?). Or they might give us things: items from our home country that we can’t source locally; a family heirloom; a work of art; a beautiful scarf.

Children learn by watching. Nicholas and I hope that our modeling of welcome will rub off on our kids. CutiePyeGirl is positively energized by the prospect of guests, asking what they are like when she hears they are coming and counting down the days if we’re welcoming someone really special, like grandparents. PyelotBoy, being an introvert, is more reticent, but when the guests arrive he realizes that it’s pretty great to chat and talk and get to know them – especially if they like sport.

Memories last forever. When I think back over the season of hospitality, what stand out are the memories. Like singing the Star Spangled Banner on the Fourth of July with sparklers. Drinking Pimms and watching ArtistMan create a painting within minutes while laughing with his wife. The glories of a British BBQ without rain. Walks and talks and catching up on life and love and hopes and dreams and fears.

Have you ever hosted until you hurt? How did you respond afterwards? What joys and challenges do you find with hospitality?

 

Amy Boucher Pye is a writer and editor, and a transplanted Yank living in the UK. She and her PyeFamily live in North London. She blogs at www.amyboucherpye.com and tweets at @AmyBoucherPye.

 

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8 comments

Mark Votava August 29, 2014 - 8:16 am

Some of the joys of hospitality for myself are: receiving from guests is always a blessing, the memories created is wonderful, the experience of seeing Christ in others is forming, sharing of food and conversation can be nourishing, listening to others who I think are different from me is illuminating. Some of the challenges are finding healthy boundaries, becoming tired at times and knowing your limitations. Sometimes hospitality hurts and I want to give up on this way of life. it is hard to see Christ in someone you feel like you don’t like very much or is rude and disrespectful at times.

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Christine Sine August 29, 2014 - 8:37 am

I agree with all you say here Mark. Thanks for your comment

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Amy Boucher Pye August 29, 2014 - 3:27 pm

Thanks Mark; great comments which I too agree with. “Knowing your limitations” – that’s a big one for me, which I continue to need to learn. I clearly think I can do more than I can, and I think I underestimate the energy involved in providing a welcoming home.

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Vanessa Gordon August 29, 2014 - 7:30 pm

Thanks for this Amy – I love being hospitable, but it is physically and emotionally draining, and after intense hospitality seasons I too have the feeling of wanting to “pull up the drawbridge”.
One of the things that I find the most energizing and exhausting is feeding people. I love cooking and providing for guests, but the relentlessness of meal after meal can turn that joyful task into a challenging one. But almost always people are keen to pitch in, and the community created in the kitchen around food preparation and clean up is a beautiful thing.

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Amy Boucher Pye August 30, 2014 - 7:25 am

Thanks Vanessa for commenting; I agree about the making of meals being tiring – I think that’s one thing that I don’t anticipate will take as long as it does, especially because my husband usually cooks dinner for us regularly, but I do for guests. I find that we repeat a lot of our standard meals for guests (as I wrote on Godspace here: https://godspace-msa.com/2014/06/24/welcoming-angels-unawares-by-amy-boucher-pye/ – great idea for cooking a whole chicken in a crock pot), and I agree that it’s fab when guests pitch in with chopping vegetables or cleaning up the kitchen. I hope that all of this hospitality that we’ve provided this summer helps me to be a better guest!

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Christine Sine August 30, 2014 - 9:14 am

Amy, your final comment here really resonated with me – helping us to be better guests as well as better hosts is an important part of hospitality. I must say that I feel a little frustrated (and maybe insulted) when guests do not chip in and help, then I realize that many of them have never had to help around the house or with preparing meals and so it is not even something that is on their radar screen.

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Amy Boucher Pye August 30, 2014 - 12:52 pm

I know what you mean, Christine. I struggle with that feeling too. I try to remind myself that different cultural factors may be at work – like perhaps they’ve been brought up that being a good guest means receiving from your host and not interfering in someone else’s kitchen. Once we had a family with very young kids staying with us, and our kids were younger too. They were on a vastly different schedule to us because of jet lag, and finally after a couple of days of washing their dishes from their earlier breakfast, etc, we asked if they wouldn’t mind with some of that. I think they didn’t even realize that we were feeling burdened. It’s hard to get the balance right; they were good enough friends that we could ask, but sometimes it doesn’t feel appropriate.

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Christine Sine August 30, 2014 - 12:57 pm

We learn so much as we grapple with these issues don’t we?

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