The Graciousness of True Hospitality

LON Little Shop in Boulder has a forthcoming creative project – a magazine – for which they asked me to write a piece on hospitality.
Though the topic is part of what this blog covers, I didn’t realize quite what a passion I had for it until I was writing solely about it.
I had to deeply reflect on what it is exactly that creates the lived experience of hospitality.
Also, what the guests’ responsibilities are, as well as what the hosts’ are.
I was recently at a cocktail party friends hosted in their home.
It’s strange, because as a woman in her early 40’s, I’d never been to an official cocktail party before.
I’ve been to plenty of parties where cocktails were served.
I’ve been to countless dinner parties.
I’ve been to holiday parties in the fall and winter months, and outdoor summer parties in that season, but never a bonafide Adult Cocktail Party.
We walked in to a lush, generous bar filled with every kind of spirit you can imagine, a variety of glassware for cocktails, wine and beer, and a bartender from one of the best restaurants in Denver that they’d hired for the evening.
In the LON piece, I’d written about how important it is to make and get a drink into your guest’s hand as soon as they arrive, because it sets the tone of hospitality and also puts the guest at needed ease.
The next thing I said was better yet, hire a bartender! [these guys were one step ahead of me]
There were snacks set out on tables throughout the space, to encourage movement and offer variety.
The highlight was a tray of turkey meatballs in marinara with big shavings of parmesan cheese, presented in green polka-dotted Chinese takeout containers.
Not only was the presentation beautiful and playful, but practical too, since you could take your container with you, savoring bites as you moved around the space.
I find I’m equally obsessed with beauty and practicality, and this was a genius combination of the two.
As I observed our hosts throughout the evening, they were at ease mixing and mingling – able to stay in conversation with their guests, including me – check on the playoff game playing on a TV downstairs where other guests had gathered, and enjoying their own party.
It helped me delight in the experience more, and in each of them as individuals and a couple.
While I like meeting new people, what I really want is to feel connected to the people I came to see, and those are my hosts.
Hospitality is defined as the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, and it is difficult to be friendly and generous when you’re stressed and distracted.
Because they thoughtfully prepared so much in advance, and especially because of their choice to get help with the bartending task – which at a cocktail party is the main one – they were present in the truest sense of the word.
It made for a great evening, and a lovely example of the good feelings and deepened relationships brought about by true hospitality.

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