Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40).
Some of my fondest memories as a child were Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s house. I can recall the smell of the home cooked meals she’d prepare with love, the conversation around the dining table, and my grandmother’s deep satisfaction of watching her family gather together. She came from a huge Italian family of 18 siblings. Imagine what dinner was like at that house! She was close to her family and to my delight they made frequent visits to her house. She’d pull out the Stella Dora cookies, get a fresh pot of coffee brewing and before I knew it the house was filled with her sister’s laughter. My grandmother knew how to be hospitable to everyone who entered her home. Hospitality is a gift that we should freely bestow on our friends and family. What better way to love your neighbor than to be hospitable?
When we raise our children in an environment that encourages hospitality we are giving them simple lessons about kindness and love. When you share your hospitality you are giving a part of yourself unselfishly to others. As a Christian we are taught to build up the body of Christ. One way to build one another up is through hospitality. We can encourage hospitality in our own home by doing some of the following:
Instill good behavior in your children when there are guests in your home
This may seem like a no brainer. But, it actually quite common in some homes for kids to stay holed up in their room without even greeting guests. It is important families establish rules of conduct. I am not saying they need to curtsy, but a simple hello and some conversation has never hurt anyone. It is good for their social skills and it teaches them how to have respect for others.
Make Others Feel Comfortable
When kids have their friends over, the first thing they may want to do is run to their rooms or the family room. Sure it is their peer, but express the importance of being polite and making their guests comfortable. Make sure they ask their friends if they want a drink or a snack, take their coat and hang it up, these little things add to creating a hospitable environment.
Go the Extra Mile
When your kids are having a party, don’t get caught up in doing all the organizing. Incorporate them into the planning of their party. Sit down with them and discuss the details, but ask them how they can make their guest feel special, comfortable, and welcomed. Maybe they can make a special treat for them or create meaningful party favors. Make sure they greet each person and try to spend time with their guests equally.
Don’t forget the Little Gestures
When you are teaching your kids about hospitality don’t neglect the little gestures, such as sending a thank you card. Even the little ones can get in on it. My four year old was invited to a dinner and movie play date at her friend’s house. Her friend’s mom really put forth an effort to make it a fun girl’s night. Afterward Anya and I went to the store and I let her pick out a thank you card. Her friend and her mom loved it and Anya learned a great lesson! If a teacher is having a birthday, make a birthday basket and let your child choose the goodies! These little things will encourage hospitality.
Lastly be an example! It might sound hokey but, if there is a neighbor moving in bring over a cake or cookies and introduce yourself, bring your son or daughter with you. Let them see through your example how to have a hospitable heart. Have family gatherings, visit the sick, participate in your neighborhood and show your kids what it is like to really love your neighbor!
Copyright © Chere Williams, Moms of Faith, All Rights Reserved