Sitting at a recent family meal, my siblings and I began to discuss a predicament we had all noticed, but never fully understood. Upon discussing some of our friends belonging to our generation, we concluded that “we” (meaning millennials) are very willing to exhibit hospitality, but have never learned how. We were raised on the sermons about biblical community and gospel-centered relationships. We’ve read the articles on the importance of the home and made dreamy speeches on The Inklings and The Eagle and the Child, vowing to someday have a group like theirs and a fitting plot of land on which to eat, drink and be merry with them.
However, we also have been offered an array of other things during our growing up years. Social media, one-parent homes, extremely busy agendas, fast food, temporary living situations, working moms and education on everything from geometry to indefinite pronouns. At home, however, our educations were lacking. Very few of us were taught to cook, clean or host guests. A college man (to use a much out-dated term) recently confessed to me that he’s never washed a window and doesn’t “know how.” Girls my age joke about the fact that they can’t bake a box of brownies. Homemaking is so 1950’s. Luckily for us, vintage is IN.
In other words, the heart is there. Almost every twenty-something I know wishes to be a good friend. The education and the training, to put it formally, are what lacks. Therefore, as someone who grew up in a very unorthodox home in which I was taught to cook, clean and run a household, I give you Hospitality for Millennials (alternately titled “Hospitality for Dummies”!) Though you are going to have to look elsewhere for lessons in baking cakes and scrubbing sinks (I’d recommend your grandmother,) I can offer you a few helpful hints on being a good host or hostess.
1. Try to be at least somewhat organized
If there is one thing that stresses me, it’s disorganized or nonexistent plans where solid plans should be. When you are making arrangements for a friend or relative to come stay with you, get the times down and then write them down. Consult and/or notify other people who will be involved (housemates, for example.) Don’t make other plans which will require you to abandon your guests. Clear your schedule as much as possible and ask them via text or, if you really want to go the extra mile, in a phone conversation, what they’d like to do while they’re there. Plan the meals, prepare the space and just generally be prepared for their arrival. This not only alleviates any stress that could come with their arrival, it makes your guest feel special and welcome.
2. Raise your standards of what categorizes a “clean house”
Before your guests arrive, clean your house. No, I mean actually clean it. The space they are seeing and using should be picked up, the floors should be clean, the furniture dusted. Actually sanitize the bathroom. Wash the bedding the guest will be using. If you’re able to get this done, it’s the little details that will finish the atmosphere. Light a candle (they aren’t just romantic, they’re inviting to virtually everyone.) Water the houseplants. Wash the windows, especially if you have glass front door. Make sure your house not only looks, but feels and smells welcoming.
3. Provide food. Real food.
Nothing, NOTHING is more inviting than a delicious meal. Consider what time your guests are arriving and plan accordingly. Offer them coffee or tea in between meals. Will breakfast be their first meal at your home? Consider getting up early and cooking for them. Otherwise, plan on cooking for them later in the day. You don’t have to be a professional chef to create an enjoyable meal. Pinterest has a boatload of quick and easy recipes. Even if you just purchase a few cans of cinnamon rolls, your guests will at least feel welcome and full after breakfast! Sit down together and enjoy eating and talking at the table. This is the best kind of bonding time!
4. Be at ease
I think this is a big one for my family. When we have guests over (which seems to be very often lately,) all or most of us sit and visit with them. We don’t book tight appointments with our friends and family. We don’t let on if there are a million other things we could be doing or if we wish we weren’t staying up so late, seeing as we have to be up early the next morning. We simply relax and enjoy our time with whoever has come through our door. Of course, there are exceptions. Many times I have to leave the conversation in the living room to start cooking in the kitchen. My dad is very often at work when we have guests over, or sleeping after a night shift. My mom keeps laundry going pretty much all day, no matter who is at the house! But we aren’t on our phones much and we aren’t complaining about being too tired, busy or bored to hang out longer. The guest has a certain privilege in your home. He or she determines when they go.
In general, hospitality is just The Golden Rule applied to details. Put others before yourself. Be as accommodating as possible. Create the time, space and atmosphere for your friends or family to open up and do what they came to do: spend quality time getting to know you a little better. And last but not least, don’t forget that your guests could always be angels in disguise. Yeah, I see you watering those houseplants.