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Outrageous Hospitality: Dare to Ask

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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When I was a kid, we often traveled from our home in Georgia to Upstate South Carolina. We loaded up our yellow 1972 Dodge Dart and spent weekends, holidays, and vacations visiting aunts, uncles, and cousins.

I suppose even if there had been a hotel or motel in the town with one traffic light, an ice store, and a championship football team, we wouldn’t have made reservations. We stayed with family.

Always.

No Imposition

I never heard my mother on the phone prearranging our visit, but I wonder if she had any inhibitions about asking her sisters-in-law if we could stay with them. (How do you ask someone, even a family member, if they can house five extra people for a weekend or longer?)

Did she worry about imposing? Did she fear rejection?

I wasn’t privy to those details.

Most often we stayed with my Uncle TJ, Aunt Lavelle, and my cousin Ricky. We used their house as home base. We ate some meals together, but we also visited other relatives who lived in the same town.

In the evenings, the grown-ups played Pinochle while the kids played Rummy or board games or watched TV. When it was time for bed, Momma and Daddy slept on a pullout sofa, and we kids slept on pallets in the living room.

These days when our family travels, my husband Peter makes reservations at residence-like hotels, or we rent pet-friendly houses that accommodate the six of us and Archie, our 100+ pound golden retriever. Peter presses a few keys, clicks submit, and swipes a card upon arrival.

Traveling Like Momma

In June, Hannah, my 18-year old daughter and I were scheduled to make a quick trip from our home in Virginia back to Augusta for a long weekend. I hated the thought of spending perfectly good money on a hotel when I still had so many friends and family members in the area. I wanted to do what Momma would have done.

Ask.

I wanted to ask friends, but I was nervous, despite the fact that with only one exception, I’ve known these women for more than three decades.

These were birthday party/sleepover friends; football game, choir tour, and mission trip friends. They were all “woe-is me-I-don’t-have-a-boyfriend” friends (who later became “woe-is me-he-broke-up–with-me” friends). These were disco-dancing bridesmaid friends. Send-pictures-of-kids-at-Christmas friends. And a blogging friend from The High Calling added to the mix.

But the thought of asking caused my throat to go dry. “How can I ask without putting someone on the spot? How can I offer an easy out?”

Just Ask

It finally occurred to me late one evening. Facebook!

At 11:37 p.m. I sent a group message to a dozen women, then promptly went to bed so I could hide with embarrassment. The next morning, I held my breath, reached for my phone, and opened the Facebook app.

The offers were rolling in.

I was relieved until I realized I had a new problem. How could I choose one friend without offending all the others? Was I in junior high again? A quick search turned up an online customizable spinner. I entered my friends’ names and clicked spin.

Voila!

I took a screenshot of the results, posted the image into the group message, and announced my friend Deena as the “winner.” (Surely Emily Post would cringe if she were alive.)

As it turns out, Deena and her husband Mike are empty nesters with two spare bedrooms and an unused bathroom. When we arrived, dinner was simmering on the stove. The next morning, fresh baked muffins on white doilies beckoned from underneath a glass domed cake stand. Coffee was always on the ready.

Hannah and I shopped, visited with friends and family, drove by my old house, and even toured my old high school. At night, we returned to Mike and Deena’s house where we talked for hours, poured over old photos and yearbooks, and laughed until my stomach hurt.

Like Mother, Like Daughter (and Granddaughter)

The next week, Hannah and one of her friends from Young Life were scheduled to take a road trip to Nashville. Their original (free) lodging arrangements fell through. Cancellation was imminent.

Hannah pleaded with me, “Would you please ask Ms. Wendy if we can stay with her?”

Wendy and I have known each other for nearly a decade and have visited in each other’s homes on several occasions. With only a little hesitation, I picked up the phone, scrolled to her name in my Favorites, and asked.

Her response was warm and enthusiastic. “Absolutely! Tell them to come on!”

So they did. Hannah and her friend had their own bedrooms, shared a private bathroom, and came and went as they pleased. Curtis, Wendy’s husband, even gave them cool logo swag from his work with the Mocha Club.

Looking back, it all sounds absurd, except for this: if I knew that a friend and her family were coming to Lynchburg, I’d absolutely want them to stay with us.

Some things you can’t experience with reservations.

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Outrageous Hospitality

Romans 12:13 encourages us to practice hospitality. In the Message version, that verse reads: "be inventive in hospitality." Translated, the word hospitality means showing love to strangers. It's more than opening up our homes to the people we know well. Outrageous hospitality extends even to people who aren't at all like us, and who wouldn't usually show up on our radar screens.

Read and share the stories and articles in this series, Outrageous Hospitality. We hope they'll help you develop a working definition of what it means to practice hospitality in your community, your family, your workplace, and your church. In what ways might you be inventive when it comes to hospitality—reaching beyond your usual sphere of influence?>

Featured image by Juan Carlos Mejía. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.

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