Growing up we always had family in our home. My mother, an expert hostess, was ready and willing to open her house for a get-together, many times at a moment’s notice. Fast-forward several years to my own hosting experience. We were just married, living in a tiny (I mean TINY) one bedroom apartment. Being a new bride, I took 90 percent of my wedding gifts up with me to our new dwelling, which left 10 percent to live in. It was crowded and cramped, but we entertained. A lot.
We hosted dinners for my husband’s former roommate and watched Jon & Kate Plus 8 (now simply Kate Plus 8) every Monday on our 17-inch television. I was working a lot of night shifts as a nurse, so we had to stay in Michigan for our first Thanksgiving. Having a kitchen with a miniature everything seemed more like an adventure then a problem. We cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings, and we hosted a handful of friends, including one of my husband’s professors. It was a tight fit: we were eating at two different tables at two different heights. No one could move. But we laughed a lot that night and we stayed up late into the evening enjoying coffee and pie and laughing some more.
This wife and (then) future mother realized something that night. It doesn’t matter how big your home is. What matters is the people in it.
Later, when we lived in Boston, not many of our friends owned or even rented houses; in our circle, it was apartments all the way. That makes for some cramped quarters when you are trying to get more than four people together for an evening. But we made it work, because it was about the company we were with, not about the comfort of the accommodations. Some of my favorite memories come from sitting on a staircase chatting with the nearest friend because there were no chairs left to sit on.
Then came the little ones and their toy army. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I weed through the plethora of kids’ books, pistols, revolvers, and shotguns, plus various pastel-colored make-believe kitchen tools; my house still ends up looking like a Toys “R” Us. There’s no hiding it. We have kids. We have a small house. You can only stuff things into a closet so many times before you run out of space. So for a while, I did what every mom tries to do: plan my play dates out. “Let’s meet at a park.” “Chick-fil-A has a clean play place!”
But then I realized, I don’t look at people’s homes and say, “Wow! Alex really needs to get it together because her house is a wreck!” No, I leave her home remembering how awesome the coffee was and how much I enjoyed conversing with an adult and how well she fed my kids because she has the best snacks at her house.
That is when I decided to throw caution to the wind and to start inviting people over again. Even when my kitchen floor hadn’t seen a mop in two months. Even when my bathroom wasn’t spotless. And yes, even when my kitchen sink was overflowing with dishes. And you know what? I have a great time. My kids have a great time. And I have meaningful conversations over a mug of coffee with a friend.
People don’t care what your home looks like, what kind of food you serve them, or what brand of coffee they’re drinking. What they remember when they’ve left your house is the feeling that someone cared enough to spend time with them, share life with them, and talk to them face to face.
So, what can you risk this week to open up your home to someone? Believe me, even if you just have mac and cheese in your cupboards and if your floors haven’t been swept in days, you could be a breath of fresh air to someone who needs it. And maybe that person is you.