I tell people, as my child leaps into their arms, that she is the mega-extrovert. She is the embodiment of sanguine. She wins a room over, whether they want to be won or not. (She’ll make an excellent politician or 8th grade math teacher someday.) She is the definition of energy gained from socialization, and I? I’m the one who feels my energy depleting minute-by-minute, dish by dish, fresh baked brownie by plate of spaghetti. I live in the near boiling tension of loving people but a confident introvert. This confuses some, causing a brow to raise when I admit that I’m an introvert.
But I will happily open my doors to whomever is knocking. A meal? It’s yours. A cup of tea? Yes, always. Coffee, fresh brewed? Just say the word. I want my home to be a haven, and not just for empty stomachs or cold hands, but empty hearts and tired feet.
“But you have people over all the time!”
“Oh I know!” I exclaim. “I love people!”
But I’m not the social butterfly. Unless something is pounding in my heart, I will gladly take the seat of listening. I will keep asking questions to see what else is behind your story, your quick summation of your wild life lived.
But even I confess, those five minutes before everyone arrives, after I’ve lit all the candles and checked the temperature of the meat one last time, I have to take a deep breath. “This is going to be hard,” I tell myself. I might reach for a glass of wine or stuff my face with an early bite of mac and cheese just to numb that feeling, because anxiety is my shadow.
But the door opens and I hear the sound of voices. Winter coats are tossed on the hooks and snow scatters across the hardwood, a telling reminder that this house is a place where we shake off the hard stuff and try to let deep things melt.
I have purposely been upstairs before when guests arrive. I like the sounds of their voices but the pressure of an enthusiastic greeting is not always my cup of tea.
The slowing down. Listening. Knowing more than ending this night feeling full, maybe it should end with me feeling empty. Empty of words and dish soap. No more wine and a full sink, conversations that take their time at the table, in the kitchen or at the doorway.
This is when I have found the true gift of opening my home. Those few stolen moments, when a friend sits across the table from me, and I’m quieted long enough to hear them confess words, broken with tears, over a plate of meatballs or a hot drink.
I’m sitting at my kitchen table, the one handed down to me from my grandmother. Rounded, cracked, covered with a tablecloth and the remnants of dinner from hours ago. The sound of conversations and raucous laughter fills my living room just over my shoulder, but I’m here, staring at the face of a friend who has taken a few silent moments to speak with a low voice and with tears about how he’s feeling about life. I know I won’t likely be joining the crowd for games, nor will I make any effort to become the center of attention. But I’ve filled here — breaking another piece of bread and dipping it into the meat sauce while confessions of loneliness and finding our place are poured out on the table like wine.
Maybe this is the gift of hospitality. There is no show. There is no parade of my home. There are bread crumbs for both finding the food and finding our way back home.
I don’t remember where I read it, but there is a common courtesy when offering tea to a guest. First you offer tea, and if the guest declines, you let them decline. You offer again and if they decline, you kindly nod. But you always offer a third time. This time it’s different. You suggest that you will be making some for yourself, and “Would you like a cup?” If your guest really wants tea, here is where you’ll know it. Here is where most of the time they will say, “Well, if you’re making it for yourself…”
This was a picture of how I choose to live in a state of hospitality. The difference between simply offering and then inviting in. The fine line between “What do you want?” and “What can we share together?”
So over my next pot of sauce, I’m knowing I will invite someone to dip their bread with me and I will stand quietly, emptying my mind of noise and stress to hear. To listen. To see the wine spilling and to provide a haven for any heart.