15 Dec On Hospitality, #3: Here’s How

We know now that we are a people of hospitality. We feel strongly that we should receive others with an open heart and take the time to connect with them in an authentic way.

But how? What does hospitality look like, day-to-day? Starting now, in this season of giving, how do we model hospitality for our children? And how do we nurture a generosity of spirit that lasts all year?

3 Tips for Modeling Hospitality for Children


1. Make it daily.

In our family, we start each morning by asking “How can our family give today? What do we have to offer?” Because our son is still a toddler, the answers are simple. We use the words “gentle words and helping hands” to explain that in our family we value kindness and seek to support others, whether they’re strangers or friends. Starting the day this way reminds me, as a parent, to prioritize hospitable behavior throughout the day—to look for opportunities for us to show empathy and share what we have.

If you have older children, the question “How can we give today?” (Or, if you find evenings a better time to connect, “How DID we give today?”) might open a conversation about everything from taking the time to help a friend in school to supporting community organizations with volunteer time or money.

2. Take risks.

Hospitality can feel challenging because our life experiences have taught us to be wary of others. We may be reserved with strangers, especially if they are drastically different than we are—connecting might feel awkward or worse, dangerous.

My family lives in a diverse community. Some of our neighbors don’t speak English. Some, especially in the fall and winter months, are transient, moving from one emergency shelter to another. Some of our neighbors come from cultural backgrounds that mean they have never interacted with people who, like my wife and I, identify as members of the LGBT community. There are many, many reasons we might avoid each other, intentionally or not. But our son doesn’t know that. He says hello to every person we meet on our daily walks, and in this way we have become friendly with each other.

Young people are innately hospitable. They are born ready to care for others. We, as adults, can take our cue from them and reach out, too.

3. Show that believing is doing.

Hospitality can take many forms, both big and small. Linking your family’s values with specific actions (“We think __________ is important, so we do ____________”) helps kids internalize what you teach and behave accordingly. Our son is not yet three, but he is old enough now to understand that we do certain things (give food, money, and care packages to our homeless neighbors, for instance) because “we are a family of helpers.” Older children may respond when you relate to our Unitarian Universalist Principles to concrete examples of inclusive or welcoming behavior: “Because we believe that each person is special and important, we make the effort to listen closely and ask questions when others talk about their experiences.”

Hospitality is love in action. Today, and always, we can choose to give. What do you have to offer?

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