For years now (basically since the birth of my first daughter, who is now five), I have been thinking long and deep about this new phenomenon that seems to have taken over our communities. I have even discussed this in person to a number of friends, wondering out loud if I was the only one who noticed this occurrence. What I can’t figure out is if this particular observance is more prevalent to myself because of the “season of life” my circle of friends are in, or if it is because of a plethora of other idealistic notions (which I will touch on further in this post).
This phenomenon is the not much of a craze, but rather what seems to be a shift in culture. And that shift is a lack of “scruffy hospitality.”
I’m sure you’re wondering what I’m referring to, so let me explain by giving an example: Remember the days when someone would just ring the doorbell on a whim? You weren’t expecting them, they were just in the neighborhood so they stopped by to see you. To say hello. To check in on how you were doing. Remember how you were just happy to see them? You didn’t care about the way your house looked, or even the way you looked, at the time. You embraced the mess, invited them inside your home and poured them a cup of coffee or, maybe more than likely, a glass of wine.
“Scruffy hospitality.” What happened to that?
Now, it seems that when we are expecting someone over to our home, we do what-I-like-to-call “Pee-wee Herman clean” our homes. This could include shoving things in places they don’t belong and vacuuming carpets to have those perfect lines, or frantically pulling together some hors d’oeuvres (see also, putting store bought sides in your best China serving dishes).
These days, we have to schedule time (even if sometimes short) for the arrival of guests, as no one seems to just “stop by” anymore. We put the gatherings on our already-filled, busy calendars and
anticipate stress out over their arrival. We put our best face, and decor, forward and spend our time being worried about what they may think, rather than just merely enjoying their company. Yet, what we don’t realize is that they are thinking the same things we are thinking when we are the guest at someone else’s home…nothing. They are just glad to be there in your presence, just as we are when we are invited as guests. They could typically care less if they eat off of your best China or best Chinet.
What has been most interesting to me is when “scruffy hospitality” seemed to shift to a more ideological one. Has it been because of the ‘Pinterest-worthy’ society that has taken over our psyches with the evolution of social media? Or, are we all in the thick of life, just trying to make it through another day/week/month/year of balancing babies, schedules, workdays, activities, meetings and squeezing in quality family time somewhere in the midst of that list of to-dos?
Whatever the reason, maybe we need to encourage each other to not allow an unfinished to-do list to stop us from opening our homes to friends and family, even if unexpected.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating to allow our children to not have to clean up their dirty clothes off of the floor, or for us to leave our homes unkempt. But, the idea that we must make our home look un-lived in before having people over stops so many of us from sharing life together.
More recently, when someone is coming to my home, I have stopped to ask myself: “Are they coming to see me, or are they coming to see my home?” I can’t say that I lived this advice to myself immediately but I can say that, over time, I have slowly let go of some of the crazy things I believed must happen before people entered my front door.
What I’ve realized throughout this thought process and evolution is that authenticity is more likely to happen when everything is a bit scruffy. In fact, I think the most authentic conversations I’ve experienced have happened during scruffy gatherings. Maybe because when everything is neat and in order, I feel like I need to be polished and shiny. Yet, when things are a little messy around me, I feel like I can let people know things are a little messy inside me, too.
I also have friends (and am admittedly still this friend, too, at times) who are excellent housekeepers and their homes always seem prepared for guests in my eyes. I still have authentic conversations in those situations and in their homes, most likely because being neat and tidy is authentic for them. Authenticity brings about authenticity.
So, for those of us in this season of life where our home is not naturally ready for guests, lets encourage each other to embrace the mess and this concept of scruffy hospitality.
Let’s value community over tidiness. Welcome people over, even if unexpected and uninvited. Embrace those times where you may have to say “I don’t remember the last time I have been to the grocery store, so I may just be ordering pizza, but I would just love your company and conversation.”
Because “hospitality” consists of being in the presence of the person, not for the evaluation of their home, it’s more than okay to be scruffy. Our open, welcoming home can allow our authenticity to shine, even if our home does not.