Early on in my single parenting years, I bought a fixer-upper house in a charming neighborhood full of young families with kids. A few short months after moving in, I joined a singles group at my new church.
I don’t know what made me do such a thing. I mean, the house was an investment and a way of bringing stability to a wobbly life. That part made sense.
But the singles group?
It sure wasn’t because I needed more to do. I was working an all-consuming, often dangerous job that required me to be on call 24/7. And now I had a house in dire need of TLC, a lawn to mow, a temperamental car to nudge along, and a not quite 3-year old to raise on my own.
But for whatever reason, I decided to give the “kickoff” singles event a whirl. I hired a babysitter and then went into image-management mode. I wanted to project the together, professional vibe; to give off a self-sufficient, polished air. I couldn’t have people knowing how hectic and chaotic my life really was.
No, I didn’t make a ton of new friends that first night nor did I feel measurably better about my singleness when the evening ended. (It took years for that to happen.) I just paid the babysitter and went to bed.
I kept attending, though, and pretty soon I got talked into being part of the “Newcomers’ Team” by a young staffer named Lorie. The first thing she wanted me to do was host a potluck dinner at my house for people new to the group.
I did my best to get out of it. “I couldn’t possibly have people over. My wallpaper is hideous and it’s peeling off the walls. My kitchen floor is ugly and cracked. And I still haven’t finished unpacking. Things are a mess!”
She met every excuse I offered with, “Great! The new people will love the peeling wallpaper and the cracked floor; they probably have the same thing where they live. They’ll feel right at home in the middle of the stacks of boxes and toddler toys. What a relief for them to realize you’re not perfect, so they can relax and just be themselves!”
She had me. The following Friday night, our newly-formed team showed up with plates of food, put towels over the moving boxes and turned them into extra tables, and set up lawn chairs indoors. We all ended up laughing and talking for hours. No one said a word about the wallpaper.
That Christmas, instead of store-bought gifts, our singles group exchanged “vouchers” for services we could provide each other. The hair stylist gave a hair cut, the childless friend offered a night of babysitting, the gardener promised a free lawn cutting. And lucky me, I got the gift voucher from the handyman, who came over and removed that wallpaper. Best gift ever!
Some of the friendships forged in that singles group have continued for years. And to this day, I remember the lesson I learned from that first Newcomers’ Team get-together: that the very best kind of hospitality is not perfect. It’s hospitality that makes people feel included and accepted, that makes them feel okay even when they don’t have it all together.
Because I still don’t.
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Image credit: flickr.com by Puroticorio
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