Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Simple Hospitality of My Parents...

Give us this day our daily bread...

Poverty was a well known bedfellow in the home I grew up in. One of eight children, we simply never had enough. Never enough clothes, shoes, toys, books, money, or, the most basic of necessities – food.

As kids we learned the lesson that food was, more often than not, a luxury on our table. Nobody had to tell me about the theory of 'survival of the fittest'. At our table it was survival of the fastest, the strongest, the - boldest.  When the food came to the table, it was no time to be shy – grab what you could as fast as you could or you would leave the table hungry. There was no such thing as seconds – many times there were barely firsts. As a little girl, seated at a table with four hungry and aggressive brothers, I often went to bed hungry. In the morning, when we got up, there was very rarely anything for breakfast. I could not wait to get to school in the morning to drink the carton of milk the school provided for each student. That was the only breakfast I would see on most days.

As time went on, my father managed to find part-time work to supplement the meager salary he made as a Chicago cop, which was certainly not enough to support a family of ten. Little by little, fortune began to change and the table was one of the first places we could see the change. Even a little increase in the food brought enormous relief to a mother and father with eight hungry and growing children, depending on them for survival.

When I look back on that time, what I remember most is not the poverty, although I do remember that. Not the hunger, although I do recall the pain of never having enough. No. What I remember most is the stunning example of hospitality offered from a place of need, not surplus, by my parents to anyone who ever knocked on our door. As a child, I watched as an unexpected guest would be welcomed into our living room by my father, who would invariably call to my mother to “put on some coffee and make something to eat” for Joe or Sue or whoever had come over. It was simply unquestioned that they would lay a meal out, however simple, for anyone who came to visit us.

To this day, I can hear my father calling to my mother to make something to eat for this unexpected guest. I can see my mother in the kitchen frying eggs and bacon, preparing to serve something hot and fresh from the stove for this guest in our home. There around the little table in our already over-crowded, very recently impoverished home, my parents would sit down with their guest and enjoy conversation and a hot meal that spoke the words of welcome in such a clear voice. They didn't have the money to take him or her to a restaurant. Even if they had, I don't think they would have. To them, their home was where they welcomed a guest, made him feel a part of the family, and shared with them from their own “riches”. This might sound trite, but the riches they had to share were things that money could not buy - a genuinely warm welcome and an always open door to “come in and sit down with us – have something to eat...”

This is one of the strongest memories I have of my parents. How did they learn to give in this way? I don't know. They never told me. They never even talked about “hospitality”. They simply did it. No bells and whistles. No fancy parties. Just everyday, “pull up a chair and let's eat together” generous and gracious giving to a guest from the storehouse of their hearts. They left me with a legacy of love and pride in them for this simple act of kindness, played out a million times over in front of my young eyes. Did they know I was watching? Did they think about that? Did they realize what they were teaching me, without saying a word, about “hospitality”? I doubt it. It was just a part of who they were.

I will always remember, with great admiration and affection, the example my mother and father set for me. Simple and magnificent, all at once. They taught me what it is to practice hospitality. I will always love them for that.

There is something so incredibly loving about the simple act of preparing a meal for someone and sharing it with them. One of my favorite stories in the Word of God is the scene after Jesus' resurrection where He waits on the shore for Peter and the disciples to come in from fishing. He, the Lord of the Universe, cooks them a meal and sits down to eat it with them! There is an intimacy in this simple act of hospitality that is so loving and inviting. It is there on the shore, in the warmth and love of a meal, prepared for him by His Savior, that Peter finds His way back to the Lord. 

Jesus shows us over and over again throughout His Word the high value He places on hospitality.  How grateful I am that I had parents who never preached a word about it, but who lived it out every day before my eyes.  I cannot wait to sit down at the table of the Lord and share a meal with my Savior.  And with the parents who taught me by example the meaning of "hospitality."

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me...?”John 21:15


  1. Wow...this touched my heart! Thanks for sharing.,,,patsy

  2. When you write about your childhood , I can actually picture myself there . Made me think of John Walton . What a beautiful memory to share . I just love this Maureen

  3. While there are still areas in my life where I tend to doubt God and am still learning to trust Him, money and giving are two areas that I typically trust easily because He has proven Himself over and over and over... Like the story of the widow who gave her two mites, God will always give back in great abundance to those who sacrifice from their little supply. What a great example of your parents to live out in front of you.


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