Hospitality and Neighboring is something we talk about a lot over here in the Newton household. We dream big dreams of a community that lives side by side sharing life together. We have a dim vision of a future with the people we live next to and with our fellow believers as being hugely integrated in one another’s lives.
If I’m honest though, I can get overwhelmed by the dreams and the community talk. I can become numb to this lingo that we’ve spoken of for some years now. And I think it’s because I forget sometimes that it starts small and often looks like nothing much at all.
There are no bells and whistles with this neighboring thing. It’s so normal and basic that you can completely gloss over what’s really going on because you might be expecting something more glittery and fancy.
(and instantly I’m reminded of how everyone was expecting Jesus to be this big deal king that wore purple robes and came in fancy glory, and yet He slipped on in by way of a barnyard and died a sinner’s death, nothing fancy about that).
Easter weekend showed up real fast this year, before I was even ready for it. We have a tradition on our street to have an Easter egg hunt and then to gather together on our driveway under the carport for a potluck style meal. We’ve served up BBQ and all the fixings to chili and fritos all the way to breakfast fare over the years. We do this for Halloween as well, and it’s so much fun.
I almost didn’t pursue it this year though, because we were just so busy and were also going to be cooking an entire meal for 75 people for our church Easter celebration, and humanly speaking I just thought there was no way to get it all in.
But I mechanically texted my neighbors and wondered if we’d be continuing the tradition (in part because my little Landis would have been devastated not to have an easter egg hunt), and of course the overwhelming answer was yes!
My organized neighbor sent out all the emails, we all stuffed our eggs, and showed up on Saturday morning ready to party. The turnout was impressive, including neighbors we hadn’t seen in a while, good ol’ neighbors who never miss a party, neighbors from two streets over, and the newest neighbors who live all the way down at the end of the street.
As usual, it was lovely and meaningful. It was casual and as un-fancy as you can get, but comfortable. I looked around at the clusters of people chatting and eating, relaxing and enjoying, and I was so glad we fit the party in yet again.
I always make a bigger deal out of things than I should. You don’t have to have table cloths on the folding tables, matching chairs, or even made from scratch food. You can pick up bagels and cream cheese and serve water and tea and ask others to bring whatever they want and it’s a success.
It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a beautiful gathering of people of all ages and lifestyles. It doesn’t have to be complicated. And it certainly doesn’t have to be fancy.
The memories made will be more about the people and the warmth and the attitude than anything else, and I think that’s what happened yet again outside on our cracked driveway under an ugly carport.
There is an element of obedience in hospitality that I’m learning, ever so slowly, over the years. It’s hard to take the first step and to say yes to something when your flesh is tired or just feels inconvenienced about it. But sometimes you just have to discipline yourself to say yes, and then the details come together so much easier when you are walking in obedience to what God is calling you to do.
We are called to reach out to others with open arms but it takes the first step of saying yes, and then it takes a commitment to un-fanciness, to lowering the self-imposed pressure of it looking a certain way, and to pursuing relationships.
I never regret these street gatherings. Never.
Is there a yes you need to obediently say in hospitality? Have you been wondering about having that certain family over for dinner, or hosting a little gathering of neighbors? Take the first step and send the text, invite them over, and then let the details fall into place.