I almost didn’t write this post.
Because it seems …. I don’t know. Something I don’t want it to seem.
Maybe it will sound as if I have my act together.
Because I know that in many many many ways, I certainly do not.
All of us have our lists. You know – our skill sets and our weaknesses. Our pros and cons. We might make delicious strawberry jam but we somehow cook the chewiest beef stew ever. (That problem’s mine, you guys.) We might plan well but execute poorly. (Another one of mine.)
Maybe our finger nails are lovely and well manicured but our toenails better stay hidden in socks and close-toed shoes. (I don’t think that’s me. My fingernails are — not well manicured.)
At any rate, I’ve written before about hospitality and the power of it and the importance of practicing it even before your house is tidy or your kitchen is enlarged or you build on that back deck or tear the rest of the wallpaper off the bathroom walls.
But I also want to say – you should practice hospitality because it’s fun.
This is a selfish reason maybe. But it’s genuinely enjoyable. You meet people who you wouldn’t think you’d be sharing a taco with and you laugh and you feel at ease and your world shifts a little and you like it.
Sure, right before your guests arrive you might allow your introverted self to wonder what on earth you just signed up for – invited, in fact, upon yourself. You might send a text to a friend and question your own sanity as you wonder what you might find to talk about and why anyone would want to spend an evening at your usually-not-quite-up-to-code dirty house and you’re questioning and highlighting all of your personal conversational flaws but it’s too late by then because you already offered the invitation and the crockpot is full of chicken and their car is pulling in your driveway.
Recently our family had a little opportunity to practice what we preach.
About a year ago the kids and I visited our local farmer’s market and saw a pallet-sided stand manned by two friendly fellas with a lot of hair on their heads and on their faces. They were selling shaved ice. On our first visit I think I purchased one or two to share among the six of us. It was the best shaved ice we’d ever tried.
We became weekly regulars and our orders increased because sharing was too hard when the ice came in so many great flavors. (Wedding cake and snow cream you guys. I mean, come on.)
And each week we’d smile and share small talk and get and give high fives and we sort of got to know the ice guys and their ice compadres. And then, occasionally and randomly, we would see some portion of them in other places. At a restaurant. At an event. At a wedding. We knew we had a handful of mutual friends but we’d never really chatted more than a few minutes here and there.
And then there was this one time when we saw them and I was reminded that they seemed like such interesting people and that I really enjoy interesting people and I wanted to actually hear their stories and to not just buy shaved ice from them so I did this kind of crazy little gesture and I sent out this message and said a little something that sounded like, “So. The kids and I would love to get to know you guys better. Want to come over and eat tacos and have ice cream? If you don’t want to or this is too weird, pretend you never got this message. It’s okay.”
I felt a little silly.
But guess what?
They wrote back and said, “That sounds great.”
Next thing you know there’s ten of us eating chicken tacos and cheesy bean dip and guacamole and the table is loud and happy and full of chatter and there isn’t even any awkward and they liked Ryder and I think they liked us and we all laughed like we were old buddies and Bergen told me the best compliment the night after it was all over. “Mom,” he told me, “I liked them all. They were just cool. They didn’t talk down to us as kids, like some grown ups do. They just talked to us like they liked us.”
It took two seconds to think of the idea. Maybe ten seconds to type out the invite. A meal to prep when we would have all had to eat a meal anyway even if no one was at our house. Turned out to be the best night of our week.
You know – the night was a good time with just the kitchen table conversation. But after the kids rushed outside to play while the sunlight was still out, Jamie leans over and asks, “Mind if we set up a little surprise outside for the kids?”
Uh. Nah. I don’t mind.
See what I mean about fun, you guys?
Listen, I can’t promise that you’ll get shaved ice in your yard every time you make new friends, but who knows?
My goodness, you can just imagine how stoked the kids were when they saw the stand set up. Eyes wide and grateful little hearts, they tried nearly every flavor. And – equally exciting to them – Jamie and Sean crafted ice snow balls and engaged in general tomfoolery involving snow and tossing and running around. All antics my kids adore.
It was an especially unique and pleasant experience to me as well because sometimes when five adults and five kids share an evening, there is a separation of the ages. The kids go play and the adults converse. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a time for it and it’s fun too. But this night we just all hung out. We looked at Bergen’s finds under the microscope. Watched videos London has been editing. Told stories. Shared music. Dede introduced the kids to whatever that ap is called where you switch faces and oh my word the laughter produced around that screen was raucous and satisfying.
It was this tiny risk, really, in a world filled with gigantic risks. To invite people over to see your house when the hall is piled high with yard sale stuff and the outside was stacked with roofing supplies. When you swing toward introverted and you’re the only adult in a house and what if you aren’t interesting enough or on your game enough to be entertaining or engaging and yes, it was a small risk but some days it feels sort of like a big one.
And it was a risk for them to say yes to such an invitation. They have full lives and stuff to do and jobs to go to the next day and how do they know if they want to sit down at a table where the kids practically outnumber the adults and all of the kids are under twelve years old.
The point is – we all said “yes”.
Yes to risk and yes to vulnerability and yes to giving up of time and energy and yes to trying new things and yes to making new friends.
And it turned out to be a night of the best kind of yes.