Did you notice during this past year of Zoom meetings and FaceTime chats how oddly comforting it was to get an unfiltered view into people’s homes? We saw the living rooms of pastors who preached from their couches, the dining rooms of teachers giving makeshift lessons, the noisy interruptions from the children of executives, and the cluttered rooms of millionaire celebrities. Even telephone support lines announced that customers might hear children or pets in the background during calls.
To be honest, it was refreshing.
We saw piles of books on people’s floors, houseplant collections, and unusual knick knacks in the background. And yes, we heard babies crying, dishes clinking, and dogs barking. It was so relatable. It was so…Real.
We found out that when we take away platforms, podiums, offices, and carefully curated retail and entertainment spaces, people, all people, are surprisingly normal.
Everyone has dust and clutter somewhere in their houses, weird quirks, and surprising talents. I have discovered that many people are wonderfully approachable and likable in the comfort of the places they feel most secure. On the flip side, seeing people in a more vulnerable space is a great dispeller of personal jealousy or intimidation in us.
Our carefully compartmentalized lives in which we separated professional from personal suddenly got very personal this past year. The thing is, the idea that what you do is separate from who you are is an illusion, and who we really are is revealed most clearly in the place we call home.
This realization was a significant gift from living through a socially-distanced pandemic.
Screen time is a great tool but can never replace living interaction. We gain much through the focal points, angles and messages shared through the screen. The internet and social media have broadened our access to information and interactions to a level that surpasses manual human capacity. However, it can never replace our need for human interaction: the exchange of information through a relationship, conversation, and engagement with a whole person.
Being in someone’s presence is hugely impactful, and being with them in the space they have created for their own comfort and nurture is profoundly revealing, often inspiring a deep level of appreciation and empathy. Inviting people into our homes is an invitation to see, and be, human.
The goal of hospitality is to honor people with authenticity and generosity. It is authentic because you are choosing to invite them into the vulnerable, unfiltered place that you have made your home, and it is generous because in that place you are giving to them the time, attention, and nourishment that you would otherwise give only to yourself and your household.
Just recently, a new friend invited me to her house for an afternoon. I had consistently admired her poise, her stylish appearance, and personality. Stepping inside her front door, I enjoyed her tasteful decor and open layout. Her careful placement of focal points showed me her eye for beauty and quality, her confident and welcoming manner revealed her experience in serving guests with excellence, and her children’s toys strewn across the floor of her beautiful living room showed me how comfortable she was with living authentically.
Authenticity is a gift of truth about the whole essence of you. I can do my best to be honest and transparent on social media, I can show you snapshots of candid moments with my family and even take you on a video tour of my house, but it can never capture everything. What you have received is a brief moment that I chose to present, but you have no idea what took place immediately before or after I pressed record. However, when you enter my home, you see whether or not I styled my hair or did my makeup, you see if I stashed clutter on one side of the room so you could appreciate the neatly arranged accents everywhere else. You see me rushing around the kitchen finishing dinner or setting the table. You see into my cupboard, pantry and refrigerator, how organized it is or is not. You hear how I talk to my husband, how I talk to my children. You hear how we pray, and how we talk about God and people. You will see our strengths and weaknesses and struggles without us having to explain a thing. The longer you stay and the more time you share with us, the more you will see the true substance of our lives.
While it is possible for people to present a facade even within their own homes, as modern reality TV shows and the old classic film “Christmas in Connecticut” showed us, it is quite difficult to maintain a double life at home for an extended period of time.
People want authenticity. They might look for beautiful, pleasurable, and luxurious, but what they really want is something, someone who is genuine.
We all have different types of homes and diverse kinds of families. In each of our homes are things we love and things we wish were different. We may or may not like what it looks like yet, but the beauty of home is that it is our own space to be human, and the one thing we all have to offer is hospitality, that invitation to others to be human with us.