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Everything I have learned about offering hospitality came from receiving the gift of hospitality from others. There are three ways I like to give and receive hospitality.

First, there is “guest of honor” hospitality. This is the more traditional form of hospitality, the kind involving a clean house, the offering of food and drink, maybe candles and music, definitely a bit of work. This form of hospitality makes the guest feel special, cared for and welcome. “Guest of honor” hospitality shows people they are significant, and their visit is important. I spend my days serving darling messy little people, so it makes me feel incredibly loved when a friend picks up their house for me, offers me something to eat, clears my plate, and insists I don’t clean up. Every mother deserves to be treated like a guest of honor.

A second form of hospitality I have come to delight in is what I call “real deal” hospitality. “Guest of honor” hospitality takes effort, and “real deal” hospitality takes vulnerability. I absolutely love it when a friend lets me into her real life, the kind of life piled high with dishes, papers and laundry. There is a special intimacy that comes with not cleaning up for a friend and letting them into the beautiful mess of my often chaotic home. This kind of hospitality says, “You can be real here, and you don’t have to have it all together with me … just look at my house.”

Finally, there is “gift of presence” hospitality. Hospitality is not limited to our homes. It can be the space we create and offer by being fully present with others. We can practice hospitality with the generosity of our attention at school pick up, at the park, in the mommy-and-me gymnastics class or at our MOPS meetings. We can give others the gift of hospitality with our concern for what is going on in their lives, with our attentive and listening ear, with the simple act of eye contact. “Gift of presence” hospitality lets people know they are seen and heard, it communicates they matter.

I am appreciative of all forms of hospitality: the friend who offers me a drink in her tidied home before I even put my diaper bag down, the friend who doesn’t apologize for the Legos all over the floor or the fact she hasn’t showered in a couple days, the friend who stands with me in a crowded room and makes me feel like I am the only one there. As a mother of three young children, I often feel I don’t have much left over to give the world outside of my family, but hospitality, in any of these forms, is a gift I can give … and so can you.

Emily Kates has been part of a MOPS group for as long as she has been a mom. She is currently enjoying her 6th year in the Solana Beach, CA, group, where leadership roles and writing projects help her find balance as a stay-at-home mom. Three very spirited little girls (ages 7,4 and 2) keep Emily and her husband busy, smiling, and oh-so-tired.

Which of these three types of hospitality do you feel most comfortable offering to others?