My mail box frequently fills up with all sorts of catalogues dedicated to everything you need to set a nice table, have a garden party, or even a fancy cocktail party. There are so many stores dedicated to selling the things to make a home suitable for entertaining. My girlfriend and I love to walk the halls of Crate and Barrel or Williams’s Sonoma and drool over all the beautiful place settings, perfectly color coordinated and set for an intimate party of four.
What I find particularly ironic, however, is that with so many stores offering the dream of giving the perfect dinner party in your home, I see very few people actually making the dream a reality. Perhaps things will shift a bit with the economy’s down turn, I hope it does. After all, dining out can get quite expensive compared to creating a meal at home. We have a tremendous opportunity to share our lives with the people God has placed in our paths by simply inviting them to dinner.
My husband and I have been blessed by this practice for years. It can be challenging to coordinate schedules, clean your home a bit, and plan a meal, but the benefits far outweigh the effort. You can even have a tried-and-true meal that you make over and over each time you have a guest, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be fancy either, sometimes I forgo making a home made dessert, and put out a nice box of chocolates after dinner. I have only one rule when I entertain, that my guests are guests. Unless they insist, or it’s a big group function, I do not allow my guests to bring any part of the meal. If you do this, you are no longer making dinner for guests, you are having a pot luck, which is fine, but is entirely another thing.
I remember once, while we were living in the Midwest, we were invited to the home of some new friends for dinner. As is usually the case, I asked politely if there was anything I could bring? (Correct answer, “Just bring yourselves!” said with a smile.) The hostess quickly replied “Well yes, the salad, oh and the bread, and if you have time a desert would be great” This was not a huge affair; it was a gathering of four adults. Of course you should always bring a bottle of wine or flowers to give to the hostess, that is a nice thing to do, but not half the meal. I vowed right then and there, that I would not entertain that way. I would give my home, my time, and the meal as my gift. Also, my guests are not allowed to help clear dishes in my home. The only friends I let near a dish are those who may implode if they do not help in someway. You’ll know this type when you have them to dinner. They will rise as you rise to clear the dishes, and you’ll say “Oh, please sit, I have it” and they will watch your every move uncomfortably, squirm in their seats, fidget….so I let these friends help, it would be cruel otherwise.
Over the years, we have had new friends, old friends, neighbors, work associates, and out of town guests to our home for dinner. The more I practice the easier it gets. You don’t have to have a fancy home or matching silverware either. In fact, you can cut out the photos from the Pottery Barn catalogue for inspiration and shop in your own cupboards to recreate the look with what you have, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take the opportunity to connect with people, spend some of you hard earned time on relationships, give a bit of what you have.
Recently, a young friend of mine, who hasn’t even been married a year, invited my family to her newlywed home for dinner. She had worked all day on the meal, which was simple yet wonderful. There were seven of us altogether, sitting at a simply set, mismatched tables. On each table had a freshly cut flower from her little garden in a simple vase. I don’t think the flatware matched, I really didn’t notice. What I did notice were the beautiful faces sitting around the table, sharing a meal, sharing their lives, and laughing a whole bunch. I have never seen a more beautiful table. It was more exquisite that any fancy table I have seen set up at Macys. In life, it is the people sitting at the table, not the table that makes the perfect setting.
So, entertain! If it’s been a while since you entertained, do it. If you have never done it, do it! Clean your guest bathroom, turn on the radio, and put out some cheese and crackers. Invite you old friends, your new friends, or your child’s teacher. Time is precious people, give a little of your time and have some friends for dinner, you will be blessed. You might inspire them to do the same. Oh, and I am free a week from Friday. What would you like for me to bring?