Welcoming Work

Welcoming takes work.

Just allowing someone in and letting them share a bit of what you are doing is not really gracious hospitality.

Welcome requires consideration.  You may be serving a lovely pot roast to your family, but it is not welcoming to offer it to a vegetarian visitor.

Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.
— George Bernard Shaw, “Man And Superman”

There was a time when manners were part of everyday life.   In those days, Queen Victoria once drank from her finger bowl because a leader she was entertaining at dinner did it first, and she wanted him to feel comfortable.

For many families today, etiquette is not part of the training.   They do things the same way whoever shows up and call that simple, egalitarian and fair.

Our house, our way.   If you want to be under our roof, you will take whatever we offer and if you don’t like it, you are free to leave.

They certainly have that right to their own choices.   They just don’t have the right to call that kind of behavior “welcoming.”

Being around people who don’t have the willingness to actually be welcoming, respecting other people by going out of their way, opening their minds and hearts to the different and the new that comes their way is always difficult.

Visitors have to do all the work of adapting, putting their own needs, tastes and habits on hold at the risk of offending and being bulldozed for what the hosts see as bad behaviour.

I have experienced “Welcoming Congregations” and often found them only interested in looking for an expanded audience of what they already do rather than being open to, there for and changed by the people who come through the door. They didn’t make me feel welcome at all because I wasn’t one of their crowd with their beliefs and habits, letting them stay in their comfort zone.

The last church group I went to had a pastor who filled the table with her little stories the more beer she drank, and buying beer was a big part of their events.  She may have promised to follow up, but she never did, apparently not wanting to have to change her routines, to have to listen, to be welcoming and open.

For hosts who know how to be welcoming, though, opening to visitors can be a joyous thing, a moment of learning and loving.   Travellers who have learned to be good guests, respecting the traditions of their hosts make better welcoming hosts than tourists who want to carry their own routines with them wherever they go.

I know that I will not be welcome in someone’s home if I have to check my mind, my voice and my nature at the door. I will not be welcome if I have to do all the work of adapting to their assumptions and they do not reach out to meet me more towards where I am.

“If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d ‘ve Baked A Cake.”  Going the extra distance to respect and accommodate another person is the difference between actually welcoming them and just tolerating them, between reaching to find common ground and just letting them be a part of what you were going to do anyway.

Welcoming takes consideration and work.   In my experience, if people aren’t going to do that, well, they aren’t really welcoming to me.