As autumn days get colder, we move our gatherings inside, to the coziness and comfort of enclosed spaces. The warmth in our homes comes from more than crackling fireplaces and steaming cups of tea. It comes from the people we surround ourselves with and bring into our vacant spaces. The genial sounds of wet boots squeaking on tile and the shuffle of jackets being hung to dry. Hugs and handshakes exchanged, smiles rising between rosy red cheeks.
Hospitality is more than just the act of greeting and entertaining guests. An open door yields an offering, a gesture of real meaning. What visitors share with you in the doorway is a moment of surrender, a sacred space between their world and yours. It’s a threshold where we all can begin to peel away the layers, literally and metaphorically, and share our stories. A place to abandon the worries of the week and the weather of the day, to come inside and stay awhile.
Here are four lessons that practicing hospitality can teach you during this season of gratitude:
1. The rule that’s still golden
It’s one of the first lessons we learn in life — treat others the way you want to be treated in return. Think about how you like to feel when you are a guest in someone else’s home. If you know what makes you feel welcomed and comfortable, you can easily make others feel the same way. Small gestures make all the difference — offering a hot cup of coffee or mug of mulled wine is often enough for someone to settle in with ease.
2. With hospitality comes humility
It’s easier for others to feel comfortable in a humble space. Remember that you are sharing your home, not showing it. Fancy dishes and expensive wine can be nice but are not essential to enjoy good company and good food. The history of your Italian leather couch is drab compared to memories you share with the friend on the cushion next to you.
3. Let go of perfection
Try to embrace the fact that not everything always goes as planned. If your guests are early or your pumpkin scones are a bit burnt, find lightness in the situation rather than stress. There is no such thing as the perfect party, so think about how the imperfections can make it more fun and memorable — even if that means you have to answer the door with your hair still wrapped in a towel or have to substitute fresh fruit for dessert.
4. Practice presence
Don’t let your hospitality get in the way of your own enjoyment. The whole point of opening up your home is to share it with others, not to give away your space and your sanity. Find a balance between making your guests feel at home and feeling that way yourself. The most fulfilling and lasting offering you can share is to fill a space with attention, love and compassion.