Sarah and I have remarked for years how few people seem to invite others, or at least us, into their homes. But I don’t think it’s just us because I’ve heard others make the same lament. I’m not sure if this is something characteristic of West Michigan or whether it’s a lost art in the 21st Century American culture.
In 17 years of university leadership we were invited to someone’s home only on rare occasions. There were, of course, notable exceptions. In particular I’m thinking of three families who invited us to share their home and hospitality many times. They were friendly and became friends, and we value their friendship to this day. But this was by far not the norm.
I recognize that as President I was considered the “Boss,” and social dynamics got in the way of staff members relating to me in any other way, no matter the setting. Personnel in most organizations do not typically invite their boss to their home. So I get that. But I don’t get others for whom this dynamic never existed.
As I said, I don't know if this phenomenon is unique to our region or a lost art nationally. Drawing on other experience I’d guess it’s both, meaning I believe West Michigan has an extra dose of it and that it’s a national trend too. But I also know certain areas of the country, the South for example, are characterized by more open attitudes about inviting people to one’s home.
In the Middle East, inviting people to one’s home is the height of hospitality. When first introduced, Middle Easterners would rather invite you to their home than be invited to yours. By going to their home you show them honor and respect and they, in turn, become better acquainted with you. In the States we don’t seem to do either as much as I remember from my youth.
In Proverbs 18:24 Solomon said, “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly,” (KJV). It seems to me that inviting someone to your home is an incredible way to express openness and genuine friendliness. If I invite you and you come to my home you learn more about me because you see me in my natural habitat. The same is true in reverse.
Perhaps this is why people don’t invite others to their homes as much as people used to do. They don’t want others to learn about them. We’ve isolated ourselves in our cocoons and don’t want to be bothered or known.
It’s a free country, I know, so if people choose not to invite others into their home there isn’t much I can say about it. Except that I think they lose an opportunity for friendship, fellowship, connectedness, and community. They lose a chance to know and be known, which is a part of being human.
Inviting people into your home is a blessing that flows in both directions—to your guests and back again to you.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
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