guest post by Annette from Live, Learn, Love
Some of us forget to invite our neighbors over for a visit on a quiet afternoon, so it certainly feels foreign to invite a stranger into our home. Yet, there are times when it might be appropriate. Maybe there is a missionary on furlough needing a bed and a few meals while they stay in your area. Possibly you have relatives with whom you have recently been in contact, though you have never met them. Or maybe, just maybe, the blogging world has helped you develop a friendship.
My experience in offering hospitality in my home to a stranger occurred when my blogging friend, Jenny, traveled with her family to Pennsylvania from Arkansas on vacation. (You can read her account here and mine here.) We were very honest with one another in preparation of our time together, and here I will share a few thoughts.
Be honest about sleeping arrangements. When we recently hosted this family of five, we had two of the children sleeping on the floor (or very close to it)! It's what we could offer. Jenny was also very willing to use a hotel, but we both wanted to spend as much time together as possible, and floors weren't scary to her children. Our son used a Pack n' Play so one of their boys could use his bed, but my daughter was of an age that it was best for her to sleep in her familiar bed. We did get creative and let the youngest guest sleep on a crib mattress though! I would have felt awful if they were expecting a bed (or pull-out couch) for each person only to be disappointed and uncomfortable with the floor space.
Discuss expectations. If you are in a situation like ours where your guests would like to do some touristy things while visiting your area, you may want to offer ideas on activities close by and a bit further away. Will you be joining the family for every event? Do they want you to? Are afternoon naps a priority? Will your home just be a place of rest at night while they visit the attractions by day? By knowing these answers in advance, it can save awkward moments and unrealistic expectations.
Question food preferences. For many of us, hospitality is about food. Many, many people have food allergies, diabetes, or food preferences. My family tends to be a bit fussy when it comes to food. However, we often have visitors with allergies or diabetes. When Jenny and her family visited, it was important to me to ask a lot of questions about their vegan lifestyle so that I could accommodate them. By discussing this at detail, we were able to come up with meals familiar to my meat-eating family that Jenny's family could enjoy and eat, too. (We had oatmeal for breakfast, PB&J on homemade bread for lunch, and spaghetti with black beans or meatballs for dinner.) I even found a vegan dessert recipe since mine call for dairy products in one way or another. Not only should food preferences be considered, but drink options, too. Maybe skim milk is necessary or that morning cup of coffee. Some have a soda preference. Water may be the drink of choice, and you don't need to prepare any special drinks.
Meet the children. If children are involved, you might want to share family photos in advance so they can get to know one another. (Blogs sure make this easy!) Also keep in mind that though they are guests in your home, there are some house rules that you may want to share, while letting other things go. If your children tend to fight about sharing toys, you might ask in advance if there is one toy they would like to put aside that is special to them that they would not be required to share. Remember kids are kids. They won't get along perfectly all of the time. (Well, mine certainly won't!) Some children are shy, others are not. Just be patient as the children get to know one another.
Welcome friends. Some people keep meticulous homes. I am not one of those people. When having company, I do try to make sure my home is clean, yet still comfortable. (No one will ever be shocked that children live and are welcome in our house. It's evident everywhere.) Upon our friends' arrival, we welcomed them. The children immediately began playing with something or one another, and the grown ups got acquainted before tucking the children in for the night. While some families have a true guest room, we do not. We have a spare bedroom that is a true catch all. To prepare for Jenny's visit, I boxed up many piles of "stuff." I didn't take the time to look through the piles, but I did get it out of sight. Some would suggest flowers on a dresser or night stand for an extra touch. Most guests would appreciate that special touch, but find what is comfortable for you. Flowers are nice, but not my style. However, I did place a card on the bed to welcome Jenny and her husband.
Offering hospitality to strangers is not something that everyone will go out of their way to do. However, if you have (or make) the opportunity, I hope you will take that leap and are blessed with the rewards of deepening a relationship and making true friends. My family and I had wonderful experience welcoming Jenny's family into our hearts and home. Though there were thoughts of wondering if it might be awkward or weird, upon meeting Jenny, any fears were quickly put to rest. We had a great couple of days together and look forward to their next visit!
Hebrews 13: 2 says, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Though you may not have Moses' experience of hosting a messenger from God, you can trust you will be blessed as you bless your new friend!