By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
Don’t we love neighbors welcoming us into their home? A server greeting us by name at our favorite restaurant? A friend approaching with a hug and smile?
The importance of hospitality and making everyone feel welcome is important and something my brothers and I learned at an early age.
My parents always taught us that how we treat people is important. That we never know the impact we might have on another person. That everyone is worthy of respect and, if the timing was right, a seat at our family’s table.
If someone stopped by to see us around supper time, my parents always extended a dinner invitation. There was never a whispered exchange or hesitation, it was a given, an automatic offer. We always seemed to have enough, and no one ever went away hungry.
My mother also believed in always having coffee and baked goods available—homemade was best, but store-bought cookies would do in a pinch—in case someone “stopped around.” Yes, people used to just “stop around,” especially on Sunday afternoons.
Often these were individuals from church, but sometimes they might be acquaintances we knew very casually. Occasionally, folks stopped with a station-wagon full of children—and maybe a dog—and we kids would spend a couple hours playing in the yard or showing them new piglets or some other farm curiosity.
This taught us a couple things: the importance of preparedness and including everyone in our activities.
I was lucky to have many people in my life who helped me feel valued and included.
The first time I had dinner at my future in-laws, Dad Forsythe insisted I call him Del, and said, ”Now I’ll fix you your first drink, but after that, you just help yourself.” I never required a second – his first was usually so stout my nose tingled. He was as generous with his pours as he was with his affection.
If I am making, for example, toast, and my husband is around, I always ask if he wants a piece, even though I know his answer will likely be “no thanks.” He rarely eats toast, and even though he has refused the offer time after time, the importance of this ask is etched in some part of my brain.
As I grew up, I learned that in other families, hospitality sometimes involved different food and drink, often determined by family customs and traditions.
And as we all reached adulthood and were raising children of our own, the stop-around-offerings at the farmhouse changed and began to include a beer or glass of wine, cheese and crackers, or even the occasional chips and salsa.
As I watch our two-year-old granddaughter stirring up some soup in her play kitchen, I see she is learning and practicing hosting skills early.
“Well, hi, Nana,” she says, “want some coffee?”
Or she talks to her doll or stuffed animals, “How ‘bout some pasta? Come in. Sit down.”
Oh, how I love that—the youngest generation practicing hospitality!
It’s a Fine Life.
By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe