Hospitality gives without expecting something in return.

From past emails I have received from readers, this is a hot topic!

Earlier this year, when I wrote my Ten Commandments, here is an excerpt from my Commandment #1:

“My husband and I have served meals around our table for 16 years now, which have not always been reciprocated. Now, do we give to receive? No way! But that is one reason this blog came to be. I can think of so many reluctant entertainers out there who ‘voice’ their desire to be more hospitable, but they’re afraid to.”

Here are some thoughts that I have as to why most Americans feel it is so hard to reciprocate!

* Intimidation. My house isn’t as nice as theirs, I’m not as good a cook, and I could never host them as fabulously as they hosted us. Even if the hosts were warm and friendly and caring, that material thing gets in our way too easily, and we’re nervous about inviting more “upscale” or talented people into our humble tract house to eat a meal. If they are really your friends, does all of this really matter?

There’s also an intimacy and vulnerability to inviting individual people/families into your home that there isn’t in, say, volunteering in a church setting or place of business or even hosting large group (like sports teams or parties).

* Affection. People just don’t host individual families in their homes anymore. They don’t know how to do it and it doesn’t occur to them to learn. I don’t know if it’s hard for them, or if they just only are comfortable having people into their home that they’ve known all their lives, or who are of their same religion/political thinking, etc. If you want to maintain the friendship, there are different ways to show that you really care (take the family out to dinner, bring a unique hostess gift, offer to do some “honey-dos” around the house, meet at a restaurant, go to see a movie).

* Indifference. Sometimes maybe people we’ve hosted don’t really have a fundamental interest in us, even if we were interested in them. I think that’s where the sting comes in a little bit–we cared enough to share our home and go to the trouble of making a meal for you, and yet you don’t have warm enough feelings about us to do the same in return. Even if we don’t “click” with every family, we make the effort to connect and hopefully build a reputation of being welcoming people in our communities.

So is reciprocating required?

What do you do when you have the same couple over time and again?

Are friendships really a two-way street?

What do you do when you see friends running from intimacy?

We don’t keep tabs on invitations from friends, especially since at times we are so spontaneous and some meals are unplanned. We also love meeting friends out for dinner in restaurants or doing things “outside of the home.”

I’m always happy when our friends express interest in us and want to spend time with us, no matter what the situation.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on reciprocation?