Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Take Notes

by Carrie

One of the best ways to learn hospitality is by taking mental notes of how other people practice it. Another way of looking at it is to say that one of the best ways to learn how to offer hospitality is to first receive it. (And if you like receiving it, then you can probably imagine that others do also!)

Unfortunately, I think we're at a bit of a disadvantage in America today because so few people practice genuine hospitality that it's hard for people to learn how to do it themselves. Some lead by example and others follow by example. We each fall into a different camp during different stages of life. However, as we learn more about the best ways in which we can personally offer hospitality, we will likely discover that the way we've learned how to do it is by watching others people try their hands at it.

When I had my first baby (3 1/2 years ago) via c-section, I discovered the joys and blessings of having other people bring my family meals. For the first time in my life, I was unable to care for my husband and myself in this way (and I found this enormously frustrating, let me say!) I had to learn to accept the help and it took me awhile to admit I needed the help. That said, it didn't take me long to learn to appreciate it!

I learned something from each of the meals that were brought. Sometimes I learned what NOT to do in the future when it would be my turn to deliver a meal to someone else. But I also learned a few tips and tricks that I've since used when carrying for others in this way. For example, first and foremost I discovered the GLORIOUS blessing of having meals delivered in containers that people did not want back! Tupperware and recyclable baking pans are no laughing matter! It was scads easier to be able to throw away and recycle the dishes instead of having to take a pile of dishes to church and redistribute them. (Ever since that experience, I've tried always to take people food in containers that I do not need to have returned. It's so much more convenient for everyone!)

When you attend people's parties, do you notice when they work to make their guests more comfortable in some particular way? Do you remark on it to them, thanking them for their efforts? Do you try doing the same thing for your guests when you are hosting?

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31
If you like the way someone served and blessed others - try doing the same thing. If you appreciated their care to a particular detail, the chances are that your guests will notice the same thoughtfulness. This could be something as small as making sure there are extra visible rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom (to make sure your guests do not run out and are frantically trying to make amends with this fact!) to serving food buffet style so that those with allergies and particular likes and dislikes are allowed to "build a meal" that best suits them.

So, take notes! Learn from others. Compliment those who you notice practice hospitality very well and then emulate them. Spread the hospitality wealth around!

Have you seen hospitality practiced in a particular way that you really felt blessed by? Let's swap notes! Leave a comment below and let us know of some habit you've formed as a result of watching someone else.


  1. I totally agree with disposable containers. And make sure you tell people they do not need to return it! I learned that a lot of people do pasta or chicken, so ask if they would like x dish or x dish...allowing some variety there!

    I made the mistake of making chicken tacos for a friend...and then realized that there would still be a lot of prep work in making hte tacos since you can't just plop it on a plate like with a casserole dish.

  2. I found if you keep a frozen 9 x 13 on hand it can be a life saver. Just double one of your favorite recipes and put one dish in the freezer. This can be an emergency meal for someone, or when you have unexpected company drop by and their number exceed what you already had planned for dinner (having something already prepared removes the rushed or un-prepared aspect that might make your company uncomfortable) or it can be a life saver for you some day when you aren't feeling well or had a bad day and you just need something easy for dinner. : ) (Just pick something that freezes well and don't leave it in the freezer for more the 3 weeks.)

  3. Great post, Carrie!

    I agree about the containers for bringing meals. Another trick I learned is to tape the recipe on top of the dish--this allows people to see all of the ingredients in their meal, and also gives them the needed info if they want to make it later for themselves .

  4. Carrie (the other one!) -

    That's a great idea! In today's day and age, esp., with allergies and diets, etc., that's a very helpful thought! Thanks for pointing that out!

  5. I've been the recipient of meals 4 times (4 c-sections) so I've learned a lot!

    1. Throw away dishes.
    2. Also bring paper goods (plates, cups, plastic ware, napkins) so the new mom/dad doesn't have to wash dishes.
    3. Do not send enough food for 3 or 4 meals, if meal drop-off are coordinated for a week. The fridge fills up and now the new mom has to package it up for the freezer or feel guilty about throwing it out.
    4. Think about gas causing or spicy foods if the new mom is nursing and/or has had a c-section. Beans. Chili. Broccoli. Tex-Mex. All can cause mom and baby discomfort.
    5. If you have pre-arranged a time to drop a meal off DO NOT BE LATE! A new mom has arranged her day to be awake and presentable when you come. Even 15 minutes can be stressful when a baby wants to eat.
    6. If you are not the 1st person to bring a meal ask what they've already received that week so you don't duplicate. My experience? Baby #1 Garden Salad Week. Baby #2 Lasagna/Italian Week. Baby #3 Meatloaf. Baby #4 Pot Roast.
    7. Take PLAIN food. This is not the time to try a fancy casserole or soup.

    Like I said, 4 babies has given me the opportunity to learn a lot about receiving meals! :)

  6. I love being around people who do hospitality effortlessly, who care more about hanging out and having fun than they do about the state of their home or what they're serving. I've learned from them that true hospitality has little or nothing to do with what my house looks like and everything to do with serving and enjoying my friends. One of my most hospitable friends would spontaneously invite us over and her house would be an absolute wreck and rather than thinking less of her, I esteemed her all the more because, really, it didn't matter one bit!

  7. Having recently had lots of wonderful meals brought to us because of a c-section baby and a move, I thought of some guidelines to help coordinators and meal providers when they take meals to other people, which I sent to my churchs' "Care Team" leader:

    - Whoever coordinates the meals (and there absolutely should be one hub person to do this, no exceptions), should ask the family in advance how frequently they want meals. We've found that every other day works best.

    - The meal coordinator should ascertain whether there are any food allergies or aversions (eg, don't care for spicy food). We had
    several people contact us just to get that basic information, and it wasn't always convenient to be taking phone calls or answering emails.

    - Meals should be provided in containers you do not want returned, eg, take-out containers, jars, foil and plastic bags. I had over 20 items (not exaggerating) to return to people all piled up in bags in my front hall with sticky notes with scribbled names slapped on them so I wouldn't forget whose identical corning-ware was whose. Oddly, my closest friends were the worst culprits, bringing stacks of dishes!

    - Any containers you DO want returned should be clearly labeled (eg "return me to Susie Q."). It's too easy to get confused, especially when recovering from surgery and caring for a new baby.

    - I appreciated when people gave us enough for left-overs, and had already packaged it to be put in the fridge or freezer. Eg: Here's half a lasagna for tonight, and here's the other half wrapped in tinfoil, labeled with heating instructions, and ready to freeze.

    - I like to throw in a breakfast item: pre-sliced banana bread; or home made waffles ready to pop into the toaster and a little jar of syrup. Be creative. But breakfast is important.

    - Include the recipe if you can! :) Everything brought to us was super yummy, and I am still in the process of getting a few of the recipes from people.

    - With the recipe include a simple, short hand written note saying what is in the food, and any heating instructions. Eg:
    "Congratulations on the baby! We're excited for you. Here is a chicken carrot casserole and brownies with walnuts (I know you don't have any allergies, but wanted you to know just in case). Casserole can be microwaved or warmed for 10 min at 350. All the containers are yours to do with as you please: no need to return anything. Enjoy and many blessings! ~Susie Q."
    (Resist the urge to write a long note, which might look like it wants a response.)