Book Title: The Real Home
A patriarch was sitting in the door of his tent one hot summer day. As his eye scanned the landscape, he saw three men approaching. He knew them to be strangers, but his kind heart prompted him to urge them to receive entertainment. His invitation, so hearty, so hospitable, was accepted.
These visitors, though not relatives nor acquaintances, were treated to the best the home afforded. The host himself made provision for their needs. He was so interested, so enthusiastic, that he even ran as he waited upon them. He bade his wife hasten. He himself served the food. No labor or inconvenience was thought too great to lavish upon these stranger guests.
The old man was Abraham. His visitors were angels and the Lord Himself. His act of hospitality is recorded as an example; and the apostle writes, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
But some who seek entertainment are not angels. A man who claimed the hospitality of a woman, repeated the exhortation quoted above, and said to her that if she did not receive him as her guest, she might turn away an angel from her door.
“No danger whatever in this instance,” replied the woman. “If you were an angel, you would not appear at my house smoking a pipe, as you are now doing. Angels do not use tobacco.”
Hospitality consists in enjoying with others that which we call our own. True hospitality welcomes one from the outside to the home circle. Guests are treated with kindness and generosity. The host expects no reward for his effort and consideration, but receives his guests with a joyful heart, and for the sake of the good he can impart.
The appreciative guest will bring pleasure to the home, and will carry with him the cheer and warmth found there. Thus there will be mutual giving and receiving.
To sit together, break bread together, - our own bread, - then sit before the fire, - our own fire, - and tell what has befallen us on our pilgrimage, and speculate on what is yet to befall – that, whether in an Indian wigwam or a lordly castle, is the soul of hospitality.
Its real essence is for one outside the home circle to be welcomed within it. For the time being, all are members of one family. They eat together, talk together; and the purpose of hospitality is to form and maintain friendship.
But times and customs have changed. Our home life and our manner of receiving guests are different. Now one “entertains” at a club, at a hotel, or a restaurant. There are plays, music, games; but such entertainment is a free show, not true hospitality. We are hospitable when we share with others bread for the body and food for the mind.
One writer says:
Those who entertain in these modern times are much concerned about eating. Those who invite guests are puzzled to know how to provide dainty, sumptuous, and expensive refreshments; and those who are invited feel it is necessary, if possible, to furnish in turn something still more novel and extravagant. Thus all vie in wanton waste which is injurious to health, and adds nothing to happiness. There are jealousies, strife, and envyings, instead of the friendship, communion, and fellowship which accompany true hospitality. People are apt to confine their invitations to personal friends, and their own “set” and those who most need help and comfort are not taken into account.
“Do you know, sweetheart,” said a fond husband to his wife, “of all the holiday entertainments we have every given, that one when we invited the teachers near us who were far from their own homes, and dear old Miss Mason, who never had husband or children, and we had our Thanksgiving dinner together, - that was the very happiest party we ever had?
“Do you remember,” he continued, “how pleased Miss Mason was, and that the next day, she came to thank us again, to tell what a pleasant day she had spent, and then she gave you a beautiful handkerchief as a memento of the occasion? Poor old lady! She had enough for her support, but her heart was hungry for friends – to feel that she was wanted and welcome somewhere. I am glad we gave her that pleasant day before she went to her long rest.
“And the teachers, too – how much they enjoyed helping you get the dinner! That was a Thanksgiving to be remembered, dear. Do you suppose there are any people in this community whom we could invite to visit at our home, and thus help them?”
Our time here is short. We can pass through this world but once; as we pass along, let us make the most of life. The work to which we are called does not require wealth or social position or great ability. It requires a kindly, self-sacrificing spirit and a steadfast purpose. A lamp, however small, if kept steadily burning, may be the means of lighting many other lamps. Our sphere of influence may seem narrow, our ability small, our opportunities few, our acquirements limited; yet wonderful possibilities are ours through the faithful use of the opportunities of our own homes. If we will open our hearts and homes to the divine principles of life, we shall become channels for currents of life-giving power. From our homes will flow streams of healing, bringing life, and beauty, and fruitfulness where now are barrenness and death.– Ministry of Healing, p. 355. …
There are members of churches and societies who might look after the entertainment of the strangers within our gates, and invite them to lunch after the morning service or on other occasions. There are genial people who could take it upon themselves to help young men and women who are lonely and beset with temptations and dangers. There are hosts of evil agencies that provide pleasure and companionship for young men and women, and who extend the “glad hand” as the first step in enticing to evil. Why should not good men and women – those who see the danger, those who have both ability and courage – meet these young people and invite them to their homes, where they would find rest, comfort, and shelter?
Some will find themselves condemned by the great Judge, in the final day, by the words, “I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not.” Matthew 25:42, 43. …
THE UNEXPECTED GUEST
Often when the hostess is least prepared, visitors arrive unannounced, and perhaps uninvited. What shall she do?
Six men who were friends agreed to take turns in inviting one another home to lunch, without saying anything to their wives about it beforehand. This is what happened: Mr. A was obliged to sit in a cold parlor with his friend while the tablecloth was being changed. Mr. B had to excuse himself and make several trips to the grocery store before the meal was served. Mrs. C insisted on changing her own gown and the clothes of two children before luncheon was announced. Mr. D and his guest were kept waiting so long while additions were made to the menu, that they had time only to snatch a bite and run for their car.
Mrs. F was the only woman of the six who really rose to the occasion. When her husband opened the front door, she was found mounted on a stepladder, dusting a cornice. She had a sweeping cap on her head and a smudge on her face. But she actually smiled a radiant smile as she came down from her perch, saying, “How lovely!” when her husband explained that he had brought his friend home to luncheon. “Come right into the dining room,” she said; “I’m afraid the parlor is not very warm.” In a minute or two, she emerged from the kitchen with a clean face and a clean apron; and in an astonishingly short time, she had an appetizing meal on the table.
“It is hardly fair to the rest of you,” her husband said to his friends afterward. “Maggie makes a kind of specialty of entertaining unexpected guests; in fact, most of our entertaining is done in just this way. I telephone from the office, ‘I’m bringing Jones up to dinner,’ and she telephones to Mrs. Jones to come too. We can’t afford to give elaborate company dinners, and people don’t expect them when they are invited in this informal way. Maggie always keeps an emergency shelf in the pantry and some fresh fruit in season. She says it’s no trouble at all to make a few additions to the usual bill of fare when one does this.” Home and School
It is often not a lack of kindness of heart, but the hostess is puzzled to know how to entertain guests as she desires, and this causes her to dread unexpected arrivals. But the wise woman will provide the “emergency shelf,” furnished with that which may be quickly prepared, and thus assure a meal satisfactory to both herself and her friends.
But it is not the elaborate provision that comforts and heartens the visitor. That can be found at a hotel or an eating house. It is the home spirit, the welcome that cheers and makes guests feel that their coming gives pleasure. Dean Swift once said: “A fig for your bill of fare! Show me the bill of your company.”
A woman received a distinguished man at dinner in her home. She worked hard to provide what she thought would be a suitable meal, so had little time to converse with the guest, but left his entertainment to her husband. As the man was leaving after being invited to return at some future time, he said to the hostess, “When I come again, give me less dinner and more of your company.” The kindly reproof was taken to heart, and practiced in later years.
But now the tendency is to omit the “guest room,” and it is understood that overnight visitors are not expected or desired. This results in sharing our homes less and less with others, and the loss of blessings we might otherwise receive. …
But not all the responsibility rests upon those who entertain. The guest should take care not to overstay his welcome. His presence may bring real inconvenience, and sometimes the atmosphere of the home becomes tense and perplexing on this account. The visitor, as well as the host, has obligations.
If a hostess invites guests, it is very proper to indicate in the invitation the time and length of the anticipated visit. She might write: “I want you to come and visit us a week this summer. The first of August would be a convenient time for me. If this is not the best for you, tell me when you can come, and we will try to arrange a time that will be agreeable to both of us.”
When one is guest in any home, it should be a pleasure to do all possible to assist in the household tasks, and thus lighten the labors of the hostess. Guests may entertain the younger members of the family, and in unobtrusive ways enter into the family life.
Margaret Sangster tells her experience with a guest who visited the home of her childhood:
“Through all the years between the flaxen and the silver hair, I recall most gratefully the presence of a fair young woman who once spent a week at my father’s house, when I was a wee lassie, conning my Webster’s spelling book. Her pretty gowns, her merry laugh, and her sweet notice of my small self are with me still. She was to wade through seas of trouble, poor lady! But she did not dream of that then; and in her queenly beauty, she was not too radiant, nor too happy, to add sweetness to the cup of a small person who was blissful in touching her garment’s hem.”