Several years ago, we received a phone call from friends saying they were going to be in town the following weekend. It would be just the two of them, and we invited them to stay with us.
On Friday afternoon, they called to say they would arrive in about two hours and their teenage daughter, “Susie” was with them. No problem. We have two guest bedrooms that are always ready for visitors.
As the conversation was about to end, they casually mentioned their exchange student, “Anna,” was also with them. Susie and Anna preferred not to share the same bed, and they hoped that would not be a problem. The hide-a-bed in our family room would have to suffice.
Just before we hung up, we learned Susie’s boyfriend was also traveling with them. Are you kidding? The only thing we had to offer him was the couch in the living room or the floor, his choice. Instead of providing food, beds, linens, and towels for two, the number had quickly grown to five.
The visit went well, and we shared a lot of laughs and good food around our dining room table. Soon after their car pulled out of our driveway, we gathered up a mountain of bedding and towels, and for the next several hours, the washer and dryer were humming. We were drained.
That experience reminded me of when we were in England in 1995 with our 14 year old daughter, Ellen. Detailed arrangements had been made several weeks ahead of time to stay in a private home for one night, and we confirmed there would be three of us. Upon arrival, while we were still standing on the doorstep, the wife greeted us and, pointing at Ellen, exclaimed, “Who’s she? We were expecting just the two of you, not her!” We apologized profusely and offered to go to a nearby motel. She hesitated for several awkward moments and finally said, “oh, we’ll figure out something.” To say the least, the situation was extremely uncomfortable, and Ellen felt like a leper.
I’m certain the hospitality we offered to the family of five was considerably more gracious than what we received in England. It’s been 25 years since that trip, and we still vividly recall the chilly reception we received on that doorstep. Imagine if five of us had shown up!
Hosting others can be a joy or a pain. It’s up to us to help determine the outcome.