Over the past two decades in the mid-South, I’ve developed a mantra: I can fix anything with food and flowers.
Now, that may sound a bit cocky, but for just an hour, a day, even a weekend, I’ve fixed grieving souls, troubled marriages, sudden illnesses, scraped knees, lonely hearts, bruised egos, empty nests, crushed spirits. And I’ve done it with dinner invitations, porch pastries, and drive-by plantings. I’ve even rescued a party or two with an apron and a Google search.
You see, I discovered something as I aged: Hospitality is a sure thing. People rarely turn down a home-cooked meal, banana bread or bouquet of flowers. Those are instant hits. Guests in my home may not like every food item on the dinner table, but they appreciate the invitation. They admire the tiny vases of cut blooms and the tea lights. The usual comment is, “You did all this for me?” Yes. Yes I did.
A surprise quick bread on the front porch never fails. Sometimes I ding-dong-dash, grinning madly as I imagine the quick glance around, landing on a gift bag of warm pastry. Sometimes I text, “Check your front door for a little happiness!” Sometimes the “happiness” is a covertly-planted pot of daisies or begonias. They’re such joyful flowers.
Now, Southerners didn’t invent the art of hospitality, but they’ve certainly cornered the market. I learned hospitality from my mid-Michigan farming family, who regularly hosted exchange students, missionaries, relatives, local pastors, community leaders, and a small army of children. I fine-tuned my hosting skills at every southern dinner table, party and casual coffee in gracious hosts’ homes. I can do that, I thought. So I did. And you can, too.
My hope in this video hospitality venture is two-fold: generosity and kindness. It costs nothing to be kind. But wouldn’t it be generous to double the ingredients and cost of your winning pumpkin loaf recipe and deposit the bonus loaf on your neighbor’s porch? And what might happen if you used one of those gift bags you just couldn’t throw out, added a little tissue and a sticky note with “Enjoy!” in your best penmanship? Would it make someone’s day? You bet it would.
Hospitality doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to warm a friend’s heart. Cut a few of those spring, summer or fall blooms in your yard and bring them to the table. Use a mason jar or garage-sale vase. Tie a little ribbon or twine around it. Use what you have on hand. Will those little, extra touches bring a smile or maybe even a squeal? The answer is yes.
I hope you’re encouraged and entertained by my videos. You have it in you to up your hosting game with a few, quick changes. Look around your kitchen. Break out the crystal stemware. Unearth the fancy napkins. Use the seasonal tablecloth. Then pick up that phone, throw out an invitation, and make sure someone feels special tonight.