Hoosier Hospitality

Why it's sometimes good to sacrifice the perfect home

Scurrying feet and dancing around each other in the kitchen were always the signs in my childhood home that company was coming. No matter how early we began dinner preparations, someone would inevitably sing out "They're here!" long before everything was on the table. Then there was the ruckus of greetings, the putting away of coats and bags, and the settling of persons in chairs or couches. This is still the rhythm of my parents' home when I visit over the holidays. We never quite manage to have the turkey done when the guests arrive, and we breathe a prayer of thanksgiving when someone calls to say they are running a bit late. I find myself doing the same at my own home now, smiling ruefully at the realization that even the tradition of dinner being behind time has been handed down to me.

I see, in fact, that most of the traditions I have carried into adult life have the kitchen at their heart. Perhaps more specifically, the kitchen table. It was there that Mom fed us hearty breakfasts every morning and Dad read Scripture or The Chronicles of Narnia to us after dinner. At that table I labored over math and physics. There my whole family rolled up their sleeves for applesauce-making days—hand-cranking that leaky press, filling jar after jar with hot, sticky goodness to cover our Saturday morning pancakes. There we shared meals and laughter with friends. Dad and I had many theological conversations around that table, our Bibles spread out before us, our voices rising in excitement or frustration. There we held hands and prayed with thanksgiving for food—and with tears for the concerns on our hearts. That inexpensive dining room set was the center of our home—not merely because it was where we left notes for one another, or because it was where my dad took off his boots after a long day of work, but because it was a place to gather and share our lives with one another, a place to go out from and come back to.

I have since gone out from that cozy home and dinner table to pioneer a home of my own; yet in many ways I come back to its practices, the lessons taught, and the memories made there. I am thankful to God and to my parents for the life-giving source our dinner table was. It sustained us bodily with eating meals, and it fed our souls and spirits, too. The "life together" aspect of the dinner table, of reading aloud as a family, of working together, and practicing hospitality—each person playing their part to ready the house and the table to welcome guests—set a theme for my life. These things painted a robust picture of home for me. I now seek to practice opening my own home to neighbors and friends, leaving the dishes until they are gone, that I might better listen to their stories and lives as they choose to share them. I find that "Hoosier hospitality" thrives around my kitchen table, even though I make my home in the heart of the mountains and not the Heartland of my childhood. More than simply a Hoosier quality, this kind of hospitality is not limited to a particular region or culture; rather, it stems from our Heavenly Father, inviting us to lean in and listen to His voice, to be fed His Word, and to be welcomed home.

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Image above from Flickr user graywolfx47 via Flickr Creative Commons license.