At seven years old, hospitality was a small glass of sprite with three ice cubes and two oatmeal scotchies on a china plate. Nose barely reaching the pink-tiled counter top, I smiled up at my proper English Grandmother and waited. Steam billowing from her matching tea cup, together we covered the seven steps from the kitchen to the dining room. I nibbled my cookie and tried to remember to keep one hand in my lap pressed on my napkin as she asked me questions about Second Grade. “Yes Ma’am.” “No Ma’am.” I was polite and used my fanciest table manners in an attempt to distract her from the child using her prettiest china.

Long before I knew the word hospitality, Hers spoke volumes to me. My Nannie, as we affectionately called her, was first generation “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” and yet— she was always delighted to use it all for us, her special ones. Still, she came from a long line of savers. Rinsed out ziplock bags turned upside down on the dish rack, water beads dancing down the drain. Wonderbread bags repurposed to hold anything but bread and a basket just for twist-ties. She had an underlying frugality but we saw only gracious abundance.

That fifty- year old plate and two cookies planted a small seed in my heart and it sat quietly until long after I grew taller than the countertop. Eighteen years later, I sauntered through a department store. Stars in my eyes, diamond on my left hand, and a registry scanner in my right. I stood and stared, having absolutely no clue which plates were “till death do us part” plates. Then I spotted that same pink transfer-ware, Old British Castles. I marched over with scanner in hand and devotedly scanned each and every piece, right down to the deviled egg plate. I knew I desperately wanted to pass on the joy of the pink plates just like hers and for better or worse, I knew I wanted one thing that my Nannie had— wide open arms to even the smallest guest.

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It wasn’t that her best china was replaceable, because for her, it really was not. But my grandmother knew that those moments pouring into us were much more valuable than treasured breakables. She simply loved her people more than she loved her things. Always. Her hands were perpetually open to us all. Even near the end, we were always smiled at and never a nuisance.

I’m not sure what caused her to love that way. It could have been living most of her life without her parents. It may have been the beauty that was born when her stoic kindness met my baseball-loving, Alabama- sailor Grandpa. Perhaps when she was a child, she wasn’t smiled at much. I have no way of knowing. I do know that it all made a difference for me. Like the Phone book she set in my chair to bring me closer to the table, her pleasure for all of us kids showed us we were her gift to love.

I know that when I serve cinnamon toast to my own little look-a-likes I want them to feel adored. To know that they matter more than a plate that may get chipped from years of life around the table. I know that when I hear the clink of a cookie jar lid, it causes me to smile— remembering someone who softened butter and mixed oats and added butterscotch chips… just for us. Always for us.

I also know that whether we find ourselves surrounded by luxuries or able to hold them in one hand— neither should determine our spirit of sharing, our spirit of giving. What we have has very little bearing on what we have to give.

What we truly have to give multiplies each time we give it away. And of all the things we pass down the center of our table, may we pass a spirit of welcome and being truly wanted, even to the tiniest guest.

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Cynthia Stuckey / Posts / Blog

Cynthia Stuckey is wife to Lance, who makes the best coffee in the world— and the mother of two twirling little girls. She loves to gather people around the table and has a passion for celebrating every little thing. Cynthia seeks to reach out with words of hope and humor through her blog, happygostuckey.com. She can be found there, sharing life through the lens of grace while clutching the largest iced coffee known to man. You can connect with her there, on Instagram, and Twitter.

  • Sandra Heska King
    http://sandraheskaking.com

    “She simply loved her people more than she loved her things.” What a beautiful tribute.

    October 26th, 2015 9:47
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    • Cynthia Stuckey
      http://www.happygostuckey.com/

      Thank you Sandra! Praying the same will be said of me one day. Glad you stopped by today.

      October 26th, 2015 10:59
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  • Deb Weaver
    http://thewordweaver.com

    This is a beautiful tribute and memory. It’s an encouraging reminder and challenge. Thank you for sharing.

    October 26th, 2015 10:11
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    • Cynthia Stuckey
      http://www.happygostuckey.com/

      It is a challenge for me as well, friend! So happy to see your smiling face here this morning, Deb!

      October 26th, 2015 11:01
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  • Amanda Keith
    http://www.thehomemadefig.com

    Such a great reminder to constant be in remembrance of what is “precious” to us!

    October 27th, 2015 16:24
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    • Cynthia Stuckey
      http://www.happygostuckey.com

      Thank you sweet friend. So true, right that we need the constant reminder?

      October 28th, 2015 10:47
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  • Jolene Underwood (@Faith_Eyes)
    http://joleneunderwood.com

    Cynthia – this is so beautiful! I’m so glad to see you here at Grace Table and absolutely loved this story. It brought me into sweet dreaming and my heart was deeply touched. Thank you, friend.

    October 28th, 2015 9:51
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  • Cynthia Stuckey
    http://www.happygostuckey.com

    Hey Jolene! We’re neighbors! Just about to sit and read your post and I saw your sweet comment. Thank you for your kind words.

    October 28th, 2015 10:49
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  • SimplyDarlene
    SimplyDarlene
    http://www.simplydarlene.com

    This story represents what I’ve found to be true in my own life: When we give away what we most want(ed), we fill ourselves up too.

    (And that use it up motto? That’s my family’s way. I’ve got bags drying in the rack too.)

    btw, I have a thing for opening lines… and this one is great. 🙂

    October 29th, 2015 12:19
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