A brown leather chair with a white throw blanket on it and a kitchen table behind it

We’ve heard the phrases “unprecedented times” and “new normal” countless times since the beginning of COVID-19. Perhaps the removal of convenience is the most consistent thread that ties the world together throughout 2020. Our conventional rhythms have been disrupted at best and are non-existent at worst.

A simple outing requires a different checklist. Did I grab my mask? Will this establishment be open? Will they only have outdoor seating, and if so, is the weather appropriate? Will I have to wait in a line? These realities, though bothersome, are not detrimental. They can encourage us to find new ways to gather.

As the world slowly readjusts and businesses cautiously reopen, we may resume some habits and practices from pre-pandemic life. Yet, since everyone’s comfort level to gather varies during this season, it’s worth challenging the conventional forms of hospitality. It’s also important to recognize that hospitality may be the most valuable way we can encourage the people we love in such a strange season.

During this season of newness, we have to reconsider our default forms of gathering, perhaps for a better, more intentional option. Particularly in a time when our desire for community has gone unmet for some time, approaching our relationships with more thoughtful engagement may reveal a depth of connection that we’ve been hungry for all along and teach us a new way to move forward. We must relearn and carve out innovative new ways to champion hospitality.

We must relearn and carve out innovative new ways to champion hospitality.

The title “hostess” does not fit everyone comfortably. Some people may discount their spaces, cleanliness or cooking abilities and opt for the easier option of meeting at a restaurant or a coffee shop.

I think about my friend who has made a hobby of cooking expertly. When she invites me over for dinner, I know I can expect something thoughtfully and lovingly prepared. While this is a strength of hers, she is also equally comfortable in busy seasons to extend the invitation to pick up a pizza or something local instead. The heart, however, is always the same. She welcomes me, and she shares whatever she has. It’s always a gift.

The challenge in hospitality is to joyfully extend ourselves beyond our comfort zones. It’s inconvenient, and it requires our time and a level of inherent vulnerability. However, it can also be an expression of creativity in this season of uncertainty if we let it.

We can curate a beautiful brunch at our kitchen tables. We can join our friends to craft homemade pizza or a new recipe. We can order local takeout and make our own theater for a girls’ night in. This season doesn’t have to deprive us of joy, but  if we allow it to, it can give us new and innovative ways to nurture laughter, community and quality time.

This season doesn’t have to deprive us of joy, but if we allow it to, it can give us new and innovative ways to nurture laughter, community and quality time.

This creativity can also exist outside of our homes. Whatever our present limitations or the limitations of the people we love are, we have an opportunity to bless and encourage our friends in new and innovative ways.

During the thick of COVID-19, some of my good friends smoked an excessive amount of pork and posted about it on their Instagram stories to see who they could share it with. I quickly responded, and the next day, they came by my home—throwing a container of pulled pork to me as I stood on my doorstep. We laughed and exchanged distant pleasantries, and, with a wave, they were off to their next stop.

I ended up making a new biscuit recipe the following week and did the same—tossing baked goods to friends or leaving it on their doorstep. A friend passed along cookies a few days later. It became a chain of whatever goods each person had to offer. It’s these simple offerings and how we can make a habit of them that will slowly make us more and more into friends who don’t just practice hospitality once in a while but embody it. 

Despite the inconvenience and disruption of this season, there is an opportunity to rediscover what it means to gather and what it means to extend love and comfort. A table in a trendy restaurant becomes a coffee table and a couch. An artisanally crafted espresso beverage becomes a home-brewed Chemex or Keurig. A warm hug becomes a homemade cookie on a doorstep.

Despite the inconvenience and disruption of this season, there is an opportunity to rediscover what it means to gather.

It’s these simple offerings and how we make a habit of them that will slowly make us into friends who don’t just practice hospitality once in a while but who embody it even when it’s inconvenient.

In what innovative ways have you practiced hospitality since the pandemic began? What have you learned about the value of community and gathering together in 2020?

Image via Joe Schmelzer, Darling Issue No. 19

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