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Reluctant Entertainers: Hospitality is a Gift You Can Give

  • Sandy Coughlin Crosswalk.com Contributor
  • 2007 13 Oct
Reluctant Entertainers: Hospitality is a Gift You Can Give

Hospitality is not only a gift I have but a gift I give. Be passionate about it!

You may ask, How can I be passionate about something I feel I am totally inept at? For some women like myself, hospitality is a natural as walking, not because I’m special or better than anyone else, but because I was taught it. For others, the practice must be consciously acquired. And for all of us, it must be cultivated. When used, it really can become a channel for some amazing experiences.  It’s actually very exciting when you can step outside of your fears of whatever is holding you back, and into this realm of putting others first.

I keep 3x5 index cards, bound by a rubber band; of all the guests we have had in our home. I now have fifteen years worth. I record the month/year and what I served. I occasionally thumb through these cards and reminisce. Not necessarily about the meal served, but about what happened around our table that night. Some couples are no longer married. It makes my husband and me wonder, what more could we have done? How could we have helped these people? Real, heart-felt, conversations and sometimes tears took place around the Coughlin dining table. Many times healing as well.

Opening our hearts and our homes is essential to hospitality. We each have a home – be it a small home, mid-sized home, or a mansion! And no matter what the size of our table or what food is served, bonding around that table and enjoying a meal makes people feel loved.

I never thought much about entertaining being different than hospitality, because I refer to both of these often on my blog. But searching deeper, there is a difference. Entertaining can be a burden when I carry around the feeling that I must impress others. Oops! That is hard to write because I’ve experienced it myself. In contrast, hospitality does not try to impress. When I practice hospitality, I find myself loving and serving and not even thinking about myself. How liberating that is when you grasp that concept!

Entertaining too often says, “I want to impress you with my creative new recipes and the latest decorating fad and my perfectly decked-out house.” It can show that, “this is mine and this is a reflection of who I am and what I am. Admire me!” Hospitality, in turn, says, “This home is truly a gift and it may not be perfect, but come on in while I serve you and our family loves on you.” It says, “What is ours is yours. What is said around the table stays around the table.”

Entertaining often puts things before people. Hospitality puts people before things. Because hospitality has put away its self-importance, it allows our humanness to shine through.

One more thing about hospitality: It gives without expecting something in return. My husband and I have discussed this. We have served meals around our table for 15 years now, which have not always been reciprocated. Now, do we give to receive? No way! But that is one reason I began to write about hospitality. I can think of so many reluctant entertainers out there that “voice” their desire to be more hospitable, but they’re afraid to. So, how can I help the reluctant entertainer gain the confidence to take his or her God-given gift (even if it has to be nurtured), and use it?

I hope I can help by explaining further the core meaning of hospitality. My Ten Commandments spell out the word “hospitable.” How appropriate that the dictionary would define it between the words “hospice” (meaning shelter) and “hospital” (place of healing).

It’s no wonder so many people are afraid to "entertain." Wouldn’t you like to offer a place for others to heal instead?


  • Hospitality is not only a gift I have but a gift I give. Be passionate about it!
  • Organization and planning ahead: Know Thy Recipe! Have a plan! Makes lists! Experience the power of delegation!
  • Set the mood with your specific style of music, lighting or candles. When in doubt, ask your guests to bring their favorite music.
  • Perfectionism is a robber. Lower your expectations. Your guests do not expect perfection and neither should you.
  • Ignite conversation by planning ahead of time 2 or 3 specific questions and topics of conversation for your guests.
  • Transform your home or meal with thrifty ways and low-cost ideas. Make garage sales and thrift or dollar stores part of your errand ritual.
  • Apologizing for a perceived error in your meal just draws attention to you and pulls away from the enjoyment of the meal.
  • Be yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others, but create your own style.
  • Learning - always be willing to try new things. Use the Internet or library, along with your favorite cookbooks, for recipes and unique ideas. Try new recipes on your family first.
  • Expect life-changing impact! Those who feed people lead people.

One final thought: People won’t always remember the meal that you cooked but they will remember the mood that was set.

Sandy Coughlin is a wife and mother of 3. She loves her family and loves blessing other people's lives by entertaining in her home. Sandy’s husband, Paul, (who used to be the reluctant entertainer) has come on board, and they often offer hospitality together. Sandy and Paul co-authored a book called Married but Not Engaged (Bethany House, Aug. 2006). It's written to women who are married to "checked out" or emotionally absent men and who want to create a more satisfying, intimate relationship. This article was adapted from Sandy’s regularly updated blog “4 Reluctant Entertainers,” which you can visit at www.reluctantentertainer.com.  Get more information on Married but Not Engaged by clicking here.

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