Lift up our hearts. The value of hospitality.

January 30th, 2012

A couple of weekends ago, Sarabeth messaged me with a spur-of-the-moment suggestion that my family join her family for dinner that night. I messaged her back that we already had plans, but for future reference, I’d need a minimum seven days notice to prep my introverted husband for leaving the house. That process goes something like this:

Me: We’re having dinner with the So-and-So’s Friday night! (I prefer to open with an announcement rather than a consultation, because the latter is a gateway to my own personal hell with the phrase “let me think about that” written in flames above it.)

Him: Who are the So and So’s and why must they persecute me?

Me: You know the So and So’s! We met them last summer at that thing, and saw them again just last month at that other thing. You were saying on the way home how much you like them! It will be fun. You’ll be glad we did it.

Him: Who are you and why must you persecute me?

We repeat this daily until the day of the engagement, then hourly until it is time to go (or time for our guests to arrive, if we are hosting). When the front door opens, magic happens. Prince Charming appears–witty, attentive and gracious. It’s not an act, or a case of me slipping anything into his drink. He sincerely enjoys socializing with our friends. And just as sincerely forgets that he enjoys it in between. The occasion is fun. The idea of it is arduous.

The gap in our social appetites and attitudes should be a recipe for marital disaster, but it strangely isn’t. We are so far apart on that spectrum we wind up meeting face to face. Yes, there’s tension and friction sometimes, but over time, we’ve pulled each other toward the center of our two extremes.

If you drew a Ven diagram of our two childhoods, there’d be an elliptical overlap full of love, and not much else in common. Patrick grew up in an household where socializing outside of family was extremely rare. In mine, it rarely stopped. The act of giving and receiving hospitality, as a couple and as a family, is what feels normal to me. But I haven’t been able to say why it’s important beyond that. Why it’s worth it to me to go through the trouble of drawing my husband out of his comfort zone, when I could just as easily take my social needs “outside” and not have to impose on his normal. Then I was scrolling through my Babble Top Mom Blog folder the other day, and read this on Simple Mom, in a post written by Sandy Coughlin:

Hospitality is an important piece of life that we should all savor, an art we should teach our kids.

That wasn’t even the main point of her post, but those words in the middle of it articulated something for me: hospitality isn’t simply a preferred activity of mine–it’s something I deeply value. It’s part of what being a family means to me.

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Helping ourselves to the hospitality of Bryan and Sarabeth Jones. And their butler, Mister Sprinkles.

We finally did get together last weekend with Sarabeth and Bryan, and Alison and Taido. Watching our ten thousand offspring immediately flock together in the twilight on the trampoline (like the Murmation video of starlings, only way noisier), I felt how good it was to gather–not just good for me, but good for us all.¬† “Meet and right so to do,” as they say in the Sursum Corda–the lifting of hearts before¬† communion. And isn’t that what hospitality is–the breaking of bread or, in this case, rolling of sushi, with others? The lifting of hearts together, the stretching of our sense of we.

17 Responses to “Lift up our hearts. The value of hospitality.”

  1. Mariellen says:

    One of the things that I will regret when I die is that I did not socialize more. Happily, I don’t plan to die anytime soon, so in theory at least there is time to address the gap…

    • KyranP says:

      One thing I picked up from my Jungian years was that introverts and extroverts begin to hear the call of the “other” side at midlife. I find I am definitely leaning more toward my very latent introversion. Maybe I’ll become an “innie” yet!

  2. My husband is the same way, Kyran. He’s hesitant about inviting people over who aren’t his childhood friends and their spouses, but once they’re over, he’s talkative, he’s participatory, and he’s attentive to our toddler while I’m making eye contact and intense conversation. And afterward, he seems content that we had said dinner date.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about you and the colors of your living,dining, kitchen walls. I’m off to go haunt your past blog in search of the picture that is seared into my mind of those colors of yours. Let’s hope my boys don’t interrupt in the few minutes I have before dinner prep.

    Oop. Here they are.

    • KyranP says:

      Sounds like they would enjoy each other’s company. If we could actually get them out. ;-) I have all those paint names if you see something you like!

  3. Jennifer says:

    I’m afraid I come from the same mold as your husband. I have to be dragged, heels dug in, to be social. And: I’m always, always glad once I’m with my friends.

    Most of my favorite memories from childhood involve going to friends’ homes or having them at ours, and I do want my kids to have those memories, too.

  4. Bev says:

    My husband and I are both like Patrick but fortunately for all of us, I force myself to plan get togethers with family and friends because it is so very important to get off one’s island occasionally.

    When we are hosting, a few moments before our guests arrive we will invariably look at each other and express our hope that they cancel so that we can enjoy our clean house and our labored-over food alone…then, of course, we always end up having a fabulous evening with our guests.

  5. tamara says:

    I am also much like your husband on this one Kyran. In fact that conversation (with me playing the part of Patrick) has happened in our house many times. I, most of the time am happily introverted, but certainly do appreciate the times he puts up with me … just long enough to drag me out of my ‘happy place’! Thanks for this post Kyran.

  6. Jen says:

    I’m kind of an oddball in this. I’m a total introvert when we go anywhere as a couple and find myself clinging to my husband’s shirttails. I adore having friends of ours we have made as a couple over to our house and hosting parties for his friends from professional arenas. However, if given the chance I will hole up at home and never go to gatherings with my own friends. Example…I work in public education and when summer rolls around me and my girlfriends make all sorts of promises of pool dates, zoo dates, afternoon play dates on porches with white wine and our kids…yet I avoid these like the plague when they roll around. I think I am unhinged sometimes! But I crave my solitude and peace. (bangs head on table) Someday I will require a great deal of therapy to untangle the mess that is my push-pull relationship with social life. Until then I will ignore it:)

  7. I don’t have the time at the moment to properly respond to this wonderful post except to say that I, too, am married to an introvert, and my whole family has different levels of social tolerance. I laughed about the 7-day prep which used to be a part of my life as well, but thankfully has gotten shorter. One of the trickiest things I’ve had to learn over the course of marriage and family life is to communicate my own needs (which means KNOWING my needs!) while doing my best to understand hub’s/kids’ needs with compassion. It is effing hard not to judge the whole extrovert/introvert thing, or to ascribe motives that just aren’t there. But what we *all* need is more acceptance and communication around the whole thing.

  8. Cid says:

    My Other Half and I are like you and Patrick and to add to his woes much of my equally as extroverted family is close by so we do a lot of socializing together. After almost 23 years together he can handle the chaos and lately has even been the one doing the inviting. I also find since moving out of the city where every invite required Royal visit-worthy organization we and he are much more laid back about having people over spontaneously thereby eliminating the pre-party angst.

  9. So funny, because the reason I often pull a last minute get together on my friends is really a coping mechanism to deal with my own anxieties…it’s like a work-around, not giving me enough time to really go down that road. I love people, but hospitality does not come easily; I’m working on being better at it. :)

    Love this, love y’all, SO glad we talked Patrick out of the house!

  10. Corrie says:

    Hi! We met when you came to my book club a few months ago in Fordyce. I was reading your post and when I got to the end…ta da- I read Alison’s blog too. The lady whose house we met at sent me a link to it about a month ago! I guess it is a tiny little AR world. :)

  11. alison chino says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE to be around the table with friends, but I would never leave the house if Taido didn’t encourage me.

    Also I LOVED meeting Prince Charming. Or as I like to call him, Mr. Pittman.

  12. Tammy H. says:

    Kyran, we have always valued hospitality and are often the ones to extend it since we live in Vermont and everyone loves to visit. Our boys are well rounded young men who I believed have benefited from years of company being around our house. They never, as toddlers or children, shrank from strangers since the flow of guests in and out has always been constant. Their “first” friends for birthday parties and the like were always our friends’ children and it is nice to see those kids conversing with each other (well outside of their parents’ circles) on FB and Twitter. Hospitality is truly something that we should definitely teach our children, because the value of it throughout their lifetime, will be immeasurable.
    Great post,

    Tammy

  13. […] recently wrote about the different ways Patrick and I approach socializing, so of course, I loved this post on Chookooloonks today, where Karen reflects on her and her […]

  14. Bill Fitzgerald says:

    That Bryan Jones is good people.

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