For those who know me, it’s no big secret that I love to socialize. I love parties and especially enjoy having people over for dinner, since I also love to cook! Practicing hospitality in this way is one thing that brings me a lot of joy, nevermind the extra pounds I also gain finding an excuse to serve a new gourmet recipe. I used to worry about how clean the house was, but have learned over the years that true hospitality is not about being stressed out over such things by expecting everything to be perfect. True hospitality is mostly about sharing life and love, strengthening others and giving them connection and hope. And it’s a two way street, because that’s also what it does for us, sometimes with some surprising results.
When I look back over the years at all the people with whom I have shared a meal at our home, I especially remember the young people who came. My daughter attended an alternative high school here in town, and she often brought home some of her classmates. I always extended an invitation for them to eat with us, knowing that they might not always have an opportunity for a home-cooked meal at their house. I can’t tell you how many times I experienced teens at my table who told me how wonderful it was to actually sit down and talk with others while sharing a meal. And they did talk… and I listened and learned.
As a Christian, I knew what the Bible said about hospitality. Romans 12:13 says we are to be eager to practice hospitality. I love how The Message translates this as we are to be “inventive in hospitality.” My cooking was certainly that – inventive! Romans 15:7 also reminds us to welcome one another as Christ welcomes us, to the glory of God.
One particular evening, my daughter brought her friend A.J. over after school to study, and I invited him to stay for dinner. Besides being a teenage boy with a big appetite, he also came from a family where both parents struggled to work and nourishing meals were not plentiful. He gladly accepted. That night I was preparing my famous fried chicken, a recipe I had been repeating since I learned it from my mother. My recipe, however, didn’t include frying the chicken in bacon fat. My apologies to those who think bacon makes everything better! Anyway, A.J. enjoyed the meal so much that he told me it was the best fried chicken he’d ever tasted. I was flattered, of course, but soon found out that he had an idea that I hadn’t anticipated. He wanted me to give him a cooking lesson, teaching him how to prepare the meal we had just eaten. A.J. wanted to attract the attentions of Victoria with his culinary skills. He would arrange to present her a meal of fried chicken, garlicky mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, and homemade blueberry pie. I agree to do it, after we arranged a day and time and he brought over the necessary ingredients.
The food turned out great. And apparently, Victoria was so impressed with the meal that she not only became his girlfriend, but now they are married! When I learned that they were tying the knot, I couldn’t help but think that it must have been the delicious fried chicken that caused her to fall for A.J. I’m so glad that I took the time to get to know him and listen to his heart speaking. Still, who knew it would lead to a marriage that is still happily intact today? I certainly didn’t. But I’m glad to have been a part of his continuing story with his wife of nearly three years. I’m still surprised and amused at all of this.
Well, as a sidebar to this story, my daughter later on got a job working at KFC for two years. I’m not bragging, but she always commented that my fried chicken even beat the Colonel’s. I told her that mine contains a secret ingredient called love. It’s God’s love that welcomes me and you, so that we also can bring others to our table and with the love we show, make a difference in their lives.
Reflect: What surprises have you experienced when you practiced hospitality toward others? How have you had to be more inventive in your hospitality during this time?
Maggie Daniel is married (to Rob!) with two grown kids. She’s lived in Fort Collins for 26 years, enjoys music, photography, writing, cooking and socializing.