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The Art and the Heart of Hospitality

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I have learned a lot about the art of hospitality, not because I am a master of it, but because I have been the recipient of it. My mother in law is the very model of a gracious host. If you are fortunate enough to be welcomed into her home, chances are you will be met with a smorgasbord of food, you’ll be told to use the nicest towels, and you’ll leave feeling rested and refueled. Every time I leave her home, I find myself inspired and soon lost in a Pinterest-induced coma so that I might craft and bake my way into deserving the title of Hostess-with-the-Mostest.

In these Pinterest wanderings, I found myself inundated with images of the trendy pineapple. I’ll admit to having a few home décor items showing off this sweet and prickly fruit. I quickly became curious as to the origins of its popularity.

The popular pineapple began its reputation as a hospitable fruit dating back to 1942 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Well, technically it was 1943 during his second voyage to a Caribbean island where the pineapple was hung outside village huts as a symbol that strangers were welcomed.1 This sweet fruit and its reputation was soon shared with Europe, eventually making its way to colonial America, but not without a long voyage where most went spoiled before reaching its destination.2 Because of its rarity and expense, the pineapple also became a symbol of prestige. The fruit could be rented as an eye-catching centerpiece, but only the most special and decadent of occasions called for its consumption. We now mindlessly consume pineapples on backyard BBQ skewers, but if you were invited to a 17th century pineapple-laced soiree, you surely were a valued guest.

This history gave new meaning to the gold pineapple in my kitchen. What was once a Target dollar spot steal is now a reminder for me to give the best of myself as a gracious host, to make those who enter my home feel welcomed, and, even though there are sticky surfaces and Legos to dodge, my home can still be a source of service and hospitality to those who enter it.

A well- decorated table, a yummy meal, and pineapple decor are expressions of a hospitable heart, but that is not where it ends. Hospitality is not the state of your home, but the state of your heart. What is far more valuable is the way you live and posture yourself to welcome others into your life, give your time and resources, and make others feel like they have a place. It’s not about the centerpiece at the dinner table, but the conversation around it. It’s not about the thread count of the sheets on the bed, but the rest you offer others. It’s not about the food you serve, but the life-giving sustenance you provide. After all, home is where the heart is and where we nurture the hearts of others.

It’s not about the centerpiece at the dinner table, but the conversation around it.

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Carolyn still wants to be a dolphin trainer when she grows up, lip-synced her way through most of high school choir, hates following recipes, and thinks her spirit animal is Lucille Ball or Amelia Bedelia. 

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