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A Lesson in Hospitality

Wednesday night I was reminded that I can practice hospitality even when the event I’m hosting isn’t perfectly orchestrated. My dream scenario is one where I’m completely prepared. All the place settings are ready, the atmosphere is just right and everyone is having a good time.

Wednesday morning dawned during a rain shower and cloudy skies. The power was out at the farm and areas of the property, especially our road, were pretty wet. At 4:00 PM our guests would arrive: 24 scholars from Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. I was feeling pretty anxious.

The power was back on by 9:30 AM. By mid-morning the rain stopped, the sun came out and the wind picked up, helping to dry out the land a bit. We were able to find a dry spot in front of our oak trees and began to set up tables. Things were falling into place.

The wind was still intense though, making it impossible to keep the red checked tablecloths from blowing off the tables. I gave up and decided I’d come back and finish setting the table midway through the tour, allowing Houston to wrap it up.

Our guests arrived. Their bus driver decided it best to drop them off at our gate because of the muddy conditions. With big smiles they loaded into the back of two pickup trucks to make the short trip to the hydroponic towers. I didn’t have all of the towers filled with seedlings like I normally would. Instead, Houston passed around his phone showing them what the towers look like when they’re full of beautiful produce, while I explained how the system works.

The group then loaded back into the trucks and we drove them to the middle of our property. While Houston showed them one of our safari style glamping tents and our daughter-in-law Yessika gave a tour of her and our son McClendon’s skoolie (school bus home), McClendon and I tried in vain to keep the tablecloths from blowing away and continued tying red ribbons around rolled up napkins and silverware.

A couple of the ladies asked if they could help with the silverware and then several folks pitched in to solve the tablecloth situation. Finally one lady grabbed some firewood to weigh them down. All during this time we were chatting and working together. Even when we began to serve their meal, they would pass each plate down to the end of the table, rather than keep it for themselves.

After Chef Tanner introduced each course, they applauded enthusiastically. Anything that was done on their behalf was met with incredible gratitude. It was such a great reminder that even with less than perfect planning and adverse weather conditions, an event can be pretty amazing. After handshakes, hugs, smiles, promises to keep in touch and many selfies, we were left with full and happy hearts.

I found myself overcome with emotion. Their gratitude for our hospitality was unlike anything I’ve ever known. I’m still trying to find the words to describe the experience. One thing I do know though is that hospitality comes from the heart. It’s an attitude and it can be shown no matter the external conditions. And it’s my goal to keep that in mind at our next event!

This piece first appeared in Sherry’s column, Finding Myself in a Small Town, in the April 2, 2022 edition of the Corsicana Daily Sun.

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