Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Of Culture and Hospitality

My 11yo nephew made an interesting observation when they were here for dinner the other night.  As they were leaving, we walked them out to their car and said farewell, as we always do when we have guests over.  I try and slip on some shoes as we wander out because our driveway is gravel and my feet are no longer the tough things they were in my youth.  We hover somewhere between the end of the verandah and the driveway, depending on the shoe situation.  Once our guests have driven away we head back inside.

My nephew's comment to his Dad?  "Wow, they came out to say good-bye.  In America they sent us out the door and shut it on us once we were out".

I've been thinking, pondering and grappling with this for a few days now. I am fascinated by such a small but significant difference in the culture of hospitality.  I am swivelling, in my mind, between what the Bible tells us about offering hospitality and what it looks like 'on the ground'.  Believers are encouraged to offer and practise hospitality.  It is one way we can care for each other's needs.  We show our love for one another as a tangible action that blesses others richly.  It is also a way that we serve one another.

I always come away blessed when we have been invited to share a meal in a friend's home.  There is nothing more delicious than a meal, whether it be toasted cheese sandwiches or a three course dinner party, that has been prepared by someone else with us in mind.  The fact that they have given of their time and resources is the blessing.  It looks like food on the table but there is a far deeper blessing at work. 

Those final moments together, however, seem as important to me as the way guests are greeted when they arrive and the meal and the company that is enjoyed throughout the visit.  It's like the dessert at the end of a meal.  That final taste that leaves a sweet and lasting impression of friendship.  As I think back, I have fond memories of being waved off.  That feeling that those last moments are as important as all the moments that have been shared throughout the visit.

We will continue to wave our guests off from the end of the verandah, or the driveway, because it's what we've always done.  And I think, for the most part, it is what Aussies do.  But I will do it with a greater appreciation, now, for what it says to our guests.  It is the final moment for blessing those who visit our home.


Left-Handed Housewife said...

I live in the southern part of the states, where hospitality is prized. My husband always walks our guests to the car and the rest of us wave from the porch. So not all Americans just shut the door!

I do think walking your guests out is the nicest way to say goodbye.


Tracy said...

My nephew needed to go to the South!

I wonder whether snowy cold weather makes a difference in how farewells are done?

nolene said...

I found that interesting. In South Africa we always walked people out to their car and mostly still do that now. I did find it disconcerting when we moved to Australia and found that many people do not do that. I more used to it now but certainly prefer the cheerfull wave at the car!

As to whether the weather makes a difference? I think the regulars at our house accept that in the cold I wave at them from the front door and leave hubby to walk them up the drive way!

Tracy said...

I am finding this completely fascinating! I really do wonder what determines how we farewell our guests? Is it upbringing? Is it whether you're an extrovert or not? I can see this will entertain my mind when I can't sleep tonight!

Rel said...

Hey! Catching up on your blog :) It's funny, we walk people to the front door, sometimes to the car, but always wave at the door.

Sometimes I worry though that it makes people feel we are watching their every move as they get in the car (especially if they have small children and have to strap them in!)

I can't imagine just shutting the door!