My dear sons. I need a quick word. For a moment, please marshall all the forces of your fine minds and beautiful hearts and pay close attention to what I am about to say.
Both of you – with rather great fanfare I must say – have finally entered into adulthood. You are no longer small children, and so it would grieve me greatly if your father and I had neglected to properly highlight some important instruction while you still lived under our care.
That instruction is this: When you are invited to someone’s home for a meal, never arrive at the door empty handed. Another way to say this would be: NEVER ARRIVE AT SOMEONE’S ELSE’S HOUSE EMPTY HANDED.
Because you are no longer small children. Young children expect to show up at a table, eat their fill, and quickly run back out the door to play. But that is no longer you.
As young adults, you should by now have the highest regard for those who would warmly welcome, generously prepare, and kindly invite you and others to their table for a meal.
What’s that? Oh, yes! Even if you’ve asked the hostess, as you always should, ”What can I bring?” and she responds, “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!” or “JUST BRING YOURSELF!” What should you do then??
As your mother, I am telling you that you may Not Under Any Circumstances Just Bring Yourself. Why? Because true hospitality is holy work.
The lovely people who practice real hospitality spend themselves on welcoming others in. They do this out of obedience and love for God, and expect nothing in return except that those around the table are seen; heard; enjoyed; cared for, and more deeply known.
And in doing this holy thing – in practicing this divine call to welcome our neighbor in – those who extend real hospitality to others embody the generous welcome and very character of God. Can you see it?
Therefore, as fortunate recipients of such a prodigal generosity, you can (and definitely should) tangibly commend it by not arriving at the host’s door empty handed.
Or, like a young child, you could naively assume that those who have opened their hearts, home, and afternoon to you somehow OWE you this generous hospitality? Or that the food has magically appeared at the the table without preparation, effort, or personal cost? Or that they are fortunate to be hosting YOU?! You are a busy and interesting college student after all.
No dear ones. By now, and at your age, with a growing understanding of things both seen and unseen, such blindness and presumption would be unfortunate at best, and rude at worst.
I know you are cash poor, but you are neither blind, naive, or rude. So perhaps you might bring your hostess a fresh baguette ($1.99) or a bottle of sparkling Italian Soda ($2.49)? Or you could bring the little ones in the home the puzzle or movie ($.99) you purchased at Goodwill with them in mind? You could even bring some wildflowers you picked on the side of the road during your morning trail run ($0)? PS. If I were your host, this would be my most favorite thing to receive of all.
It’s not how much it costs, this small thing that you bring, but what it visibly represents: Someone has seen you, thought of you, and considered you – and you have not failed to see.
Someone has sought you out and welcomed you in with hopes of nourishing both your body and soul – and you have not neglected to stop and give thanks.
Someone has been willing to obey the divine call into the holy work of true hospitality – and you have remembered to bear witness and testify to both the gift and the Giver.
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.” (Proverbs 11)
Peace to you today, and peace to your house – because you belong to God.