“God bless the corners of this house and be the lintel blessed: and bless the hearth and bless the board and bless each place of rest; bless each door that opens wide to stranger and to kin; and bless each crystal windowpane that lets the sunshine in. And bless the rooftree overhead and every sturdy wall. The peace of man, the peace of God and the Peace of Love to all.” ~ Irish house blessing
For me, the notion of hospitality has been taught to me by friends as an adult. When I have reflected back on my childhood there seems to be a lot of mixed messages as to what hospitality means. I’d go to church and hear one message and at home there was another. Kin were welcomed, but strangers no. I had this impression that non-family members had to be watched because they may steal something. Thus, I never really felt comfortable inviting friends over. I felt like they were being watched and someone was ready to jump out and zap them if they made one false move.
When my Grandma M died my sister and I divided up her silverware. I chose the assortment of teaspoons and ice teaspoons; my sister took the set. We both thought it was funny that Grandma had a rather extensive collection of mismatched spoons.
It took over three years to find knives and forks for six of the spoons. The dealer told me how old those spoons were. He said they weren’t my Grandma’s but my Great-Grandmother’s. I told him about how I had this odd assortment of spoons. He then told my why:
Sunday’s afternoons were spent going to neighbor’s homes for tea. There wasn’t TV or Radio back then, people visited, tell stories and have conversations. I remember him saying: if we were to do one of “the good old days thing” it would be to visit more with neighbors. Perhaps we wouldn’t live behind a closed doors and empty porches filled with outdoor furniture.
His words seemed to stick.
There are many stories of hospitality that have clung to my heart growing up. In the Bible, Abraham shares his table with three traveling strangers that turn out to be angels (Gen. 18). Then there are the Biblical stories about women at the wells. Rebecca gave Isaac’s servant water at the well (Gen 24); Rachel giving Jacob a cup of water at the well (Gen 29); Zipporah and her sisters gave the stranger Moses water from the well (Exodus 2); and the Samaritan woman gives Jesus water from the well (John 4). Then there is the French fairy tale of Diamonds and Toads.
The basic gist of the story, the step daughter who isn’t liked goes to the well and is met by an older beggar woman. The older woman asks for a cup of water. The girl treats the woman with kindness and gives her a cup before finishing up her chore. The woman is actually a fairy disguised and rewards the girl with a blessing: every time she speaks a flower or jewel with fall from her mouth.
When the girl arrives back home, her step mom is outraged. She was late. The girl explains what happened and the flowers and jewels fall from her mouth. The woman’s outraged because this gift should be for her daughter.
The woman sends her daughter to the well and tells her to be nice to the stranger. But, this isn’t in the girls character and her blessing: frogs and lizards. The step mom is outraged again and banishes the step daughter. But, not to worry there is a prince in the picture.
(Note: There is a dark side to this story which I won’t dissect. Meaning the traditional roles of women and what makes a good wife based on French Court)
My liking of this story is based on the principle of hospitality and how we should treat strangers.
I have spent a lot of time studying Celtic Spirituality and is the foundation of how I practice as a CCWWW. There has been a lot written about the Celtics and Druids’ virtue of welcoming a stranger and hospitality. It challenges me to open my doors without pre-judgment and without fear that things will be stolen or being taken advantage of. It’s buying a sandwich or a cup of coffee for the person begging on the street. It has not been an easy thing to do for me, because it challenges how I was raised.
Thanksgiving has been my opportunity to share this kind of hospitality. My family has moved away from the sacred grounds of Ohio and I missed the long crowded table of 19 at the farm. I discovered how many of my friends and acquaintances were eating this meal alone. When I got married, T and I decided that our Thanksgiving table would be opened to all not just kin. The meal is an orchestrated pot luck so that not too many carbolicious foods arrive. The meal is about gratitude and sharing the joys and sorrows of the year. And Grandma’s spoons are all used.
Afternoon Tea Party for a Circle of Friends
Pepperidge Farm Cookies
Invite 12 friends, co-workers or aquaintainces and ask them to bring a guest.