People often tell me, “You have the gift of hospitality.” I guess since I’ve been surrounded by it most my life, I’ve just assumed that to be true. … But after a weekend away (it was Speed Police’s birthday) and little contemplation, I’ve decided it’s not so much a gift as it is purposeful training.

My grandmother grew up in a little central Texas town near Waco called Ocee. It was the size town that warranted a Hee-Haw “Saaah-luuuute”. Her mother and father worked hard, but were far from the elite social invitation list. She and my grandfather were sweethearts in their youth and married after college. They didn’t own a home at the beginning of the marriage but lived in one of the hospitals where he worked.

As he became more successful in his medical career and in his side wheeling & dealings (he just loved a good trade), they moved to Dallas in a little house off Farghuar Lane. It was there that the open door policy began.  Folks started to flood in as my grandmother welcomed and fed the masses.

She wasn’t a great cook, but she sure could make some mean chocolate chip and sugar cookies … as well as a show-stopper chocolate cake. So with goodies, drinks and a generous spirit, she and Corkie (my granddad) created an environment that made people feel at home … especially people who had unhappy homes. My grandparents’ home wasn’t big or grand. The food was far from gourmet. But the mood welcomed everyone — so, people came, and kept coming back.

She modeled for my mother the secrets of hospitality – don’t worry about what you’re serving, just serve. Then, my mother followed suit, creating a home that was open and welcome to anyone who needed welcoming. My folks built their house with guests in mind, focused on ways to welcome…. especially their kids’ friends.  By the time we were in Jr. High, they had converted our garage into an extra room large enough to house a juke box, air hockey, ping pong and pool table. We also had the coolest phone booth salvaged from the City National Bank Building before a remodeling.

People came.

There were many rules in our house – no alcohol, no inappropriate behavior, no foul language, etc., plus respect was expected. Their generosity and hospitality did not include an invitation to a free-for-all.

More people came.

A friend of my brother’s lost his father and his mother went off the deep-end. So, he came to live with us through high school and college. After he moved out, others moved in. When my folks left Wichita Falls and moved to Dallas, the hospitality tradition continued. They hosting Sunday lunch for anyone who wanted to come. Mom never knew who or how many, but she always had an extra casserole in the freezer just in case. Countless times I would call home only to discover my friends at their house eating lunch with folks my friends had invited. Needless to say, “welcome” has been the operative word.

Okay … so there’s a brief overview of a precedent set. As I’ve started to consider the concept & its importance, I’m beginning to understand that this “gift” of hospitality was actually a long road paved by purposeful selflessness. Realizing that training and intentionality have been the primary ingredients in the road’s asphalt. This apparent giftedness comes with years of practice and work.

Our kids have been recipients. Now we’ll see how they do as the givers.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

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