A night in our backyard last summer went like this:

Beautiful friends came for dinner and we sat outside under the summer stars. I say “stars,” because if it weren’t for the candles on the table, we would have been in the dark. Yes, we forgot to fill our tiki torches, which usually give the perfect lighted glow to the backyard.

For some, hospitality may require a certain “look.” But after 20 years of having people into my home, I know true hospitality requires flexibility, grace, love, and even inviting “different” people in. On this night our friends brought their son with special needs, and having him there really added a special glow to the table because we all adore him greatly.

He sat at the table with us.

We asked him to pray for our meal.

We made sure to include him in the conversation.

We allowed him to interrupt us even when we were speaking of very important matters.

We honored him as our guest, and at the end of the night, we even asked him to sing and play some music with us. We sang, he played the piano, Abby played her violin and he also played along on the guitar.

The night was priceless.

My very good friend in my teens and early twenties, Kelly, introduced me to the special kind of love that comes with special needs. She had a brother with special needs I adored. He was so loving, and I learned to love him back. It was a great experience in my life as a young adult; I learned a lot by watching the way Kelly and her family treated their son and brother.

Many people don’t know how to react to someone who is “different,” whatever the reason, but the best way to react is to treat them with the same dignity and respect that we all hope – and deserve – to receive.

I’m so glad we included our friend with Down syndrome at our table. He’s charming, loving, trusting and very free-spirited. He’s very special to many.

So, ladies, when’s the last time you opened your home to someone who’s “different?”

Here’s one of the side dishes I served, fresh from our garden: Sweet Potato Black Bean Hash. Yum!

Recipe: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Hash {ReluctantEntertainer.com}

Summary: A scoop of heavenly sweet potatoes that will make your taste buds sing! This dish compliments any dinner party, heated as a side dish, or served cold as a salad.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, baked, peeled, and mashed into chunks (to save time, bake the night before and cool on the counter)
  • 1 jar Trader’s Joe’s Corn Chili
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 lime, cut into wedge

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onions and sauté until browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in garlic, jalapeño, cumin and salt; sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add water and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until liquid is absorbed, 2-3 minutes.
  5. Stir in mashed sweet potatoes.
  6. Stir in corn and black beans and cook until heated through.
  7. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Sandy Coughlin is a mom to 3 teens, wife to one awesome man, and author of The Reluctant Entertainer. She loves to cook and entertain in her home, and look for creative ways to give to those around her. Check out her popular Reluctant Entertainer blog.