“Mama, how many places should I set?” my daughter calls from the living room, where she’s setting out cloth napkins on the dining table.
Hands deep in the salad bowl, massaging kale with salt, I say, “It’s Wednesday,” as if this answers her question. And, in our house, it does:
“Okay, I’ll set seven.”
For years, we have had three friends over for dinner every week. They don’t come on the same night. This means that for years, three nights a week, we have a dinner guest.
Or rather, had. Last year, one of these beloved friends moved out of state. She no longer gets that one good home-cooked meal a week. At least, not at our table.
But the other two friends still come, week in, week out, and join us for whatever it is I’ve cooked up. Soup, burritos, pasta, shepherd’s pie. I work around their dietary issues and food allergies—it’s been so many years, I don’t really have to think about it anymore. On this Wednesday evening when our friend comes, we gather around the table, light a candle, bless the food, and dig in. It feels so ordinary, because we do it so often. But perhaps the truly extraordinary feels like that—quiet, unpretentious. That doesn’t make it ordinary, though.
Look at Jesus. Quiet, unpretentious. And anything but ordinary.
And mostly, I don’t think about it. I don’t even consider this hospitality. It’s become such a rhythm in our lives that it feels normal, completely du jour. But every once in awhile, when I start to get down on myself for not being more involved with “the poor” (whatever I happen to mean by that at any given moment), for not mixing more in “the world” (whatever that is), my husband gently reminds me that week after week I make these meals that feed our family and one more person besides, a person who, because of these meals, has been grafted into our family. Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t feel like hospitality—because these friends feel like family.
Perhaps, every single night of the week, when I break out the pots and pans and bowls, I am practicing hospitality. In making a meal for my husband, our children, myself, and these friends, I am creating a safe space for these few people, the people who are right in front of me, so close I am sometimes blind to the wonder of them, the sheer miraculous fact that they are—and are here, with me, in this place.