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photo: canva graphic: Martha G. Brady

Hospitality is one thing I learned about while living in Jamaica! I learned from gracious, hospitable Jamaicans and others around me. I also learned about the difference between hospitality and entertaining. I learned about caring for people who were far from home and needed healthy food while they were visiting in Jamaica. To say nothing of friends, acquaintances and people we were having over for outreach.

In the early years, there was no place to go locally to eat, that were cost effective. People only went out to eat for very special occasions at nice hotels. There was nothing on the level of McDonald’s until very late into our time in Jamaica. Ours was a smallish town. It was more cosmopolitan than a town that size would normally be because of the presence of Canadians and Americans from the bauxite (aluminum) companies, but it was nothing like the tourist towns…fortunately!

Part of our job among the missionaries, was to provide hospitality for visitors to the Bible College. Although we weren’t responsible to officially provide hospitality for others, we often became aware of people who were stranded who needed help occasionally.

We sometimes had work teams that came and we had to divide and conquer to feed them…depending on the ages of the groups. Work teams weren’t nearly as plentiful back then as they are now…fortunately! We would never have gotten anything done!

A fancy meal doesn’t guarantee a successful evening

I learned that meals don’t have to be fancy to be good. I also learned that people enjoy being in a home with a family. There is a warmth about it that transcends their memory of the actual food served.

They remember much more about attitudes that are welcoming. People who are genuine. A family that seems to enjoy each other vs. one that is tightly wound and trying to impress. Young children who are spontaneous are enjoyable…unless they are screaming!

Problems with the food or serving of the food become worse if you get all stressed over them. They happen. Things go wrong. You have to just make the best of it and move on. You can’t let it spoil the time with your visitors.

Hospitality vs. entertaining. What is the difference?

What is the difference between hospitality and entertaining? Hospitality is when your concern is for your guest. Are they comfortable? Are they at ease? Can they be themselves easily in this environment? Are we showing mercy to them? Are we offering comfort as needed?

Entertaining is more about me. Is the food perfect? Are the decorations perfect? Is my family coming across as perfect? Does my house look perfect? My concern regarding my guest is more about what they will think of me and mine than will they be comforted by being in our home.

For me, at the time, my style developed into something where I needed foods that would be ready to be served easily and not need lots of last minute tinkering. I still need that. Back then, things happened with the kids. Now, my brain just forgets too much and I can’t have last minute details needing to be done.

I’ve gotten out of practice with hospitality lately

As I write this, I see I’m out of practice. I need to get back to my days of hospitality. I’ve had times when a hearty soup made in the crock pot is a great choice. A made ahead salad and/or dessert some rolls or a store bought french bread will make a great meal! No, it isn’t fancy. But it will be delicious. It will also be one where you can visit over for awhile in simple settings.

Summers provide for luscious fresh fruit salads with a homemade or store bought bread to go with it. A cranberry nut bread, or some interesting muffins, for example. Maybe a nice sherbet for dessert. It’s not heavy. It can all be prepared ahead of time. You won’t feel rushed or worn out when your guests arrive.

Maybe my suggestions are way too sweet or full of gluten. I’m sure you can fill in some great substitutes. You get the idea. Get out and enjoy doing hospitality!

Challenge: Take a look at the style of friends whose homes you visit and enjoy. Do you see hospitality or entertaining? Where?

Step back and look at the last few times you had company over. Was it hospitality or entertaining? Why? Why not? Where could you improve?

Do you see that hospitality says nothing about your style. Some people have a more formal style to their hospitality, others are much more casual. It’s your purpose underneath that shows whether you are being hospitable or you are entertaining.