I said to my husband, “Check the bathrooms and make sure they aren’t gross.”
That was my standard of cleanliness last Sunday when we hosted a gathering for young adults. Not gross.
I had agreed to host this summertime potluck and discussion group months ago. And I had a great vision for how this time would look – lovely and pintresty.
However a couple of hours before people were supposed to arrive, we noticed a swarm of bees on our backyard patio. My husband covered his body from head to toe and ventured outside to defend our family by moving a decorative wine barrel (aka the source of attraction for the bees) away from our house.
Years ago a professional bee keeper came to our house to remove a hive we found in the back corner of our yard. He used a smoker to make the bees drowsy before he attempted to transport their home to another location.
I shouted this factoid to Ryan from the safe side of our screen door.
He proceeded to ignite a piece of cardboard and wave smoke at the bees, which had the desired effect. But then the fire on the cardboard got too big and he had to drop it onto the patio, leaving a small burn mark on the stone. He kicked the smoldering cardboard onto the lawn where it also scorched a large area of the grass. Nevertheless, he was able to plug the hole of the wine barrel and move it to the far side of the yard. Success.
Not long after he came back inside, we began to smell more smoke. We looked outback and the heat from the charred cardboard that had been discarded into our campfire pit had ignited the debris pile that was being stored there.
A comedy of errors.
By the time these incidents had resolved, it was nearly time for our guests to arrive. There was no longer time to clean and light the mason candle jars on my front steps, make the almond pesto I had intended to serve over roasted green beans, sweep the patio, or set a beautiful table.
The best we could do was do a quick inspection of our home for anything gross.
Our guests arrived soon after, and guess what happened…
We shared a lovely dinner without mason jar candles, almond pesto, or a perfectly set table – and with a few straggler bees still flying around our patio sprinkled with ash.
In fact, we enjoyed each others company and conversation so much that we never even got to the prepared discussion questions. Before we knew it our hearts and bellies were full and it was time for everyone to go.
Meaningful connections do not happen at my table because it’s perfect.
Meaningful connections happen because we keep inviting people to our table to be loved, not to be impressed.
And so, here’s the only really important thing that you need to know about practicing hospitality. There are a lot of places in this world that are beautiful. What people need are places that are real. Places where they are welcome. Places where they belong.
Candle mason jars, homemade almond pesto, and beautiful place settings are optional.