Within a week of arriving in China we had been invited to dinner 5 times by different families/individuals. We were shown the best places to buy fruit, where to get our water jugs filled, which bus would take us into Beijing and how to use appliances that were all labeled in Chinese characters. We spent zero time trying to figure out anything because the community took us and showed us the ropes.
Brand new to town. Warmly and graciously welcomed.
A couple weeks into our trip we found ourselves gathered around another table. Abby, an incredible young woman who works at New Day, invited our family of 7 plus another family of 6 to her small apartment for dinner. We all gathered around a small table, ate a delicious meal she graciously prepared and talked about our favorite things in China. Lots of laughing, smiling and, of course, eating.
She threw her door open wide and didn’t let the size of her table or the fact that we were 2 big families stand in the way.
I was blown away by Abby’s hospitality. As a big family we recognize it can be overwhelming for people to have us in their home, so we usually do the hosting. I love creating a place for people to gather, let down their guards, and just breath out a bit. In China, I couldn’t cook any of my normal recipes. I felt successful just making sure there was yogurt for breakfast, let alone try to invite others over for a meal.
The tables were turned on me. For nearly 3 months, we were warmly welcomed guests. Each time we sat around a table or were taught something new about the town we were living in, I was reminded of what it felt like to be a guest.
I don’t remember much of what we ate.
I don’t remember how the apartments were decorated.
I don’t remember if the floors were clean or the plates were paper.
I remember how I felt. I felt welcomed.
Years ago I had it in my head that if our family had a swimming pool, a larger house, or I was awesome in the kitchen – guests would have more fun and they would want to come back. If we had those things, they wouldn’t get crammed into tight, loud rooms, there would be something fun to do outside and they would have an incredibly delicious meal.
I can always find reasons why something won’t work – like hosting friends in the Oklahoma heat without a pool or a big house. But I’m learning that at least for me most of it is in my head. A couple years ago I decided we would throw open the doors of our home and host as if we had a big house, a beautiful pool and I was a master chef. I decided to just do the things I would do if I had those things. And you know what – it has worked.
I still think more space would be handy in big crowds and a pool would be extra fun, but I’ve learned what I have (which is far more than I actually could ever need) is also far more than enough. I still get super intimidated to cook for new friends, but I’m learning to let go or order take out!
Over the course of last week, 81 different big and little people gathered around our tables. Old neighbors, new neighbors, homeschool friends, church friends, long time friends, brand new friends, international friends, life long Okie friends, and family. There were no special events or reasons to gather other than we’ve missed our people and our friends in China reminded me it isn’t about what we eat, what we play, or even if there are enough chairs. There is always room for more and the little I have to offer can be enough. Soon school and sports start back up, so we are taking advantage of what few days are left to easily gather people.
The door was revolving and each time someone drove away all I could hope was that they had a smile on their face and left feeling welcomed. I hoped they felt the way our friends in China consistently made us feel.Hospitality has been a theme on my blog for awhile now. You can always tell when I am wrestling and growing in an area because I tend to process it here 😉