Christmas hospitality should be year-round

By  Lisa Petsche
  • December 19, 2008
{mospagebreak}Early in the new year most people are winding down from Christmas socializing, including entertaining at home. Considerable preparation typically goes into hosting guests over the holidays: making lists, shopping, preparing food, de-cluttering, cleaning and decorating, and perhaps also doing minor repairs or even major redecorating or renovations. The goal, of course, is to create a hospitable atmosphere.

Hospitality has many positive connotations: welcome, comfort, kindness, acceptance, attentiveness and generosity. For Christians, it extends well beyond laying out the welcome mat for guests to our home. It’s a year-round practice, a certain attitude towards everyone with whom we come in contact.

The start of a new year is a wonderful opportunity to consider how well we practise Christian hospitality in our daily lives. For instance, is our home a community of caring? As parents, do we do our best to create a positive environment, setting standards of behaviour based on Christian values and principles (particularly the Law of Love, a.k.a. the golden rule) and being good role models?

Specifically, are family members respectful towards each other? Do they feel free to be themselves? Do they demonstrate warmth and interest in one another and enjoy spending time together? Is everyone given ample opportunity to share their experiences, thoughts and feelings and can they count on a compassionate response? Is home a place of stability and consistency, with clear boundaries, expectations and routines?

From an esthetic point of view, while our home need not look like something from a magazine spread, is it kept in good repair and reasonably clean and tidy? Do all members contribute to the upkeep so that everyone can take pride in their surroundings? Do the furnishings and layout encourage interaction?

The goal of these efforts is to make our home a haven — a safe, comfortable place where we can relax and rejuvenate and connect with loved ones in affirmative ways.

What about practising hospitality in our neighbourhood? Do we welcome newcomers and help out neighbours experiencing challenges — perhaps a new mother, frail senior or caregiver of someone with special health care needs? Some examples of outreach are dropping off baked goods or a meal, shovelling snow, running errands and providing respite.

Do we likewise encourage our children to behave in a welcoming manner towards new students at school and new members of teams or groups to which they belong, and to make a special effort to be nice to peers who are treated unkindly by others?

At church, do we introduce ourselves to an unfamiliar individual or family? Have we offered to help organize a ministry of hospitality, which might include transportation to Mass, greeters at the doors, regular socials after Mass and visits to the homebound? If these practices are already in place, have we offered to assist with them?

In our workplace and other community settings, too, are we a positive presence? Unfortunately, within virtually every group of people there are negative types, prone to doubt, worry, catastrophizing, focusing on flaws in people and plans, dwelling on lack rather than abundance and viewing the world as an uncaring place.

In environments where such negativity predominates, demoralization is the result. We can do our part to counteract it by looking for the good in people and situations; being generous with praise and cautious with criticism, giving only the constructive type; giving others the benefit of the doubt; demonstrating compassion; giving encouragement; practising forgiveness; and regularly performing acts of kindness.

In public places, common courtesy and a smile can go a long way, whether we’re standing in a store checkout line or riding in an elevator or on public transit.

Volunteering our time and talent — helping out at a soup kitchen or food bank or serving with our parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society, for example — also makes the world a more hospitable place. So does donating clothing and household goods to a local shelter or financially contributing to a disaster relief organization. The opportunities for kindness and generosity are endless.

The way I like to think of it is that we are God’s greeters here on Earth. Unlike the greeters in stores and restaurants, though, we don’t get paid with money. We get paid with eternal life.

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