“Is there anything you need, anything at all to make your stay more comfortable? Please tell us now, we’d feel awful to learn about it after your visit with us.” These were some of the words our hostess, Darina Allen, greeted us with at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland. Kate and I were on a mother-daughter trip enjoying a few days cooking together and then on to Belfast to visit missionary friends and tour northern Ireland.
Everything about the school was inviting: our charming suite decorated in bright colors and warm décor, the fresh eggs, warm bread and jam delivered each morning to the door of our self-keeping cottage, invitations to extra-curricular drawing classes, and outings to listen to authentic Irish music by local artists.
Our needs were anticipated at every turn. Would we like to send an e-mail? Would Kate like to play her violin for the luncheon guests? Please tour the gardens. Have we found our way to the beach? And, of course, tea anyone?
Surprisingly, much of the cookery course evolved around preparing snacks and foods our teenagers might like. I couldn’t help thinking -Christia what a great idea to entice our children to bring their friends home. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, as the course we chose was entitled, “Simply Delicious Cooking for Family and Friends.” Darina constantly referred to serving such-and-such when her son showed up with 20 “lads” in tow. The course was fabulous and our trip magical.
I want my house to be the teen hangout. I do think part of the mystery of making this happen has to do with food. There’s nothing like being fed and knowing when you walk into so-and-so’s home unannounced you can count on a delicious snack being served. My friends Craig and Lee possess one of the keys to this mystery. Thursday nights you’ll find Craig popping a batch of his famous popcorn on the stove and Lee serving beverages to a house packed with teenagers flopped on the family room furniture and floor, crowding around the TV watching a favorite weekly program. If you must know what show could possibly captivate a roomful of teens, it’s Survivor. Probably not your cup of tea! I doubt if it is Craig or Lee’s either. But they’ve gotten over it and have this incredible thing happening at their home ─ kids hanging out, dropping over uninvited, and relationships developing with their children’s friends. Wow! What I’d give to have that going on at my house!
Just think - down the road, who will those kids know who they can turn to when they need advice or when they’re in trouble? How do we make it happen at your house and mine? Perchance we can cultivate that kind of hospitality over time, little by little, starting with where we are and what we have available to us. Yesterday my nine-year-old asked to have a friend over after school. I pulled out a box of brownies and when the kids walked in set them to cracking eggs and measuring oil. Of course, the three of us shared a few giggles while licking the bowl.
You may be at a different stage of life, but I can remember choosing to bring my friends home to my grandmother’s over my own house because I knew she not only would feed us, but be eager to feed us. Lord, make me eager to be hospitable to my children’s friends. To be honest, I’m not sure my kids always know that I’m eager to be hospitable to their friends, that my schedule allows for it, and that I’m planning on it.
Where are you in life? What has God made available to you? Madeleine, my retired next door neighbor, made my children feel welcome at her home anytime. She set up the basement with her college daughter’s old toys for my children. She dragged out bins of books and Barbies she had stored away, making them accessible to the kids. Her refrigerator held their favorite snacks and the girls were permitted to help themselves at any time. She played Sorry and reviewed math facts with them. She was willing to give to the children and build into their lives.
One thing I observed about the Irish “generosity of spirit” is they have this marvelous way of intentionally anticipating guests’ needs. I observe this same quality in my friends, Craig, Lee, and Madeleine. They all exhibit the grace of anticipating the needs of young people. I want to be more like them. I want my home to anticipate the needs of our guests, especially those not yet Christ followers.
Roman’s 12:9-13 reminds us, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
By Beth Serversen