With Open Arms: Hospitality as Service

Within minutes of sitting down to write this post, I came across the following verse, one I’d never noticed before: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2, if you’re interested). It got me thinking about my own attitudes toward welcoming others and showing care and concern for my neighbor.

We think of hospitality as a skill, something someone might be good at, something we see Ina Garten doing on TV. But hospitality doesn’t have to mean using the good china or hosting the family Thanksgiving gathering. Simply welcoming others, making them feel at home – wherever we are and whoever they are – is the key to true hospitality. Where do you feel more comfortable: a beautiful but sterile hotel room, or a bustling house full of friends or family?

Making people feel welcomed and appreciated can be as simple as a smile or a hello. The vast majority of the time, we don’t know how someone’s day is going or what’s happening in their life. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of acknowledging a person, of showing we care, of taking the time to look into someone’s eyes and listen to them.

Sometimes the hardest part of being hospitable, though, isn’t the action itself; it’s the noticing of the person in need. It’s (usually) easy to smile at our friends and spouses and children; maybe not so much for a person who’s homeless on the sidewalk, or a grouchy coworker, or a mother speaking another language as she tries to corral her kids on the playground. The fact remains that these people are our neighbors just as much as anyone else – and maybe even more in need of a simple act of kindness than we could know.

Need a few simple, everyday ideas to show hospitality?

  • Greet service people, like receptionists or cashiers. Take a minute to genuinely ask how their days are going.
  • Pay a sincere compliment to someone you see every day at work.
  • If you have leftovers from lunch, offer them to a person who could use them.
  • Pick up an extra treat, like a coffee or muffin, to share if you’re buying something for yourself.
  • Send a friend or family member who’s moved a card or package letting them know you’re thinking of them.
  • Smile. You might be surprised how many people smile back.