My husband and I stood at the cell phone store, waiting for our turn to upgrade our phones now that our latest contract was complete. Just then, a recent high school graduate who our son was close friends with walked in the front door of the establishment. I hadn’t seen him in almost over a year, and instinctively, my role as Mama Karen to any teenagers in sight kicked in.
“Dominguez!” I cheerfully exclaimed. (This guy preferred to go by merely his last name.) “It is so great to see you! Are ya hungry honey?”
He got a puzzled look on his face. And then he sheepishly answered my pop question. “Umm … Mrs. Ehman. That’s really nice of you. But … we’re in the Sprint store.”
My husband and I both burst out laughing. For over three years, anytime this young man walked in our back door and into our kitchen, I always asked him if he was hungry and then rustled up something for him to eat. Simply seeing his face made me kick back into Mama-mode, not even realizing we were out in public where I didn’t have any food to offer him.
Here’s the thing about hospitality—we can practice it no matter where we are. And, the more that we practice it, the more it spills over into all the places we frequent. While we typically think of being hospitable as within our own abode, it doesn’t have to be limited to that, which is fortunate in this day and age of social distancing. We can have a welcoming demeanor and openhearted (and openhanded!) attitude no matter where we are. It just takes a little ingenuity and flexibility.
Let’s start by asking ourselves this question: Where are your layovers in life?
When traveling by airplane—since I fly from a nearby small airport that doesn’t have many direct flights—I often have to purchase a ticket that has at least one, if not two, layovers. This means I will spend at least a half hour or more in an airport in a different city and usually a different state. Sometimes these layovers can be several hours long, and I find myself grousing and complaining about being stuck in an airport without a lot to do.
Instead of moping my way through the terminal, schlepping my suitcase behind me, I will find a café or coffee shop and order myself something hot and creamy to drink. But I also try to strike up a conversation with the baristas, discovering a little bit about them. Sometimes, they barely grunt at me. Other times they spill their entire life story. And sometimes I have even discovered they are fellow believers, and we’ve been able to encourage each other in the Lord.
On other stopovers, I will go on a mission to brighten the day of somebody I bump into. This may be a young mom wrestling with a couple of kiddos, trying to corral them and get them to behave in public. I will offer to help her unfold her stroller, or I will hold her diaper bag for her while she straps her child in. Often, I will slip her a little bit of money and tell her to buy herself and her children a treat. Seeing the smile light up her face makes what could’ve been a humdrum day of travel an adventure instead.
Of course, not all of us travel by airplane every week, but where are your layovers in life? At what places do you find yourself waiting during the week? And what about places that you hang out on social media or various websites? You are certain to bump into people there as well.
Here are some ideas to try to bring a little heartfelt hospitality wherever you are:
- The next time you make a batch of cookies for your crew, double the batch. Deliver some to a neighbor.
- Take a deli meat and cheese tray and a box of whole grain crackers to your church’s office staff or drop it off at an evening leadership meeting.
- Treat the fellow parents at our one your activities by showing up with a snack or beverages as you watch your kids play or perform.
- Gift a cashier, gas attendant, grocery bagger, bank teller, or other worker with a sweet or salty treat and a note attached thanking him/her for his/her diligent work.
- Buy a gift card to a local bakery and leave it on a coworker’s desk or taped to a friend or neighbor’s door along with a note saying your life is sweeter for knowing him/her.
- Over-tip a restaurant server, barista, hair stylist, nail technician, or other such worker and attach a note thanking him/her for his/her faithful service all year long.
- Depending on the season, take a bottle of lemonade or iced tea or a covered mug of hot cocoa or coffee to a local school crossing guard.
- During the holidays, drop a plate of treats off to a shut in, elderly neighbor, or another person who may be lonely that time of year.
- Leave a wrapped treat in your mailbox for the mail carrier, along with a note of thanks. You can do the same for your package delivery person.
For those far away:
- Enact some “ministry of the mailbox.” Anonymously mail two five-dollar coffee house gift cards to someone instructing him/her to use one and give the other away, paying it forward.
- Give the gift of prayer. Text someone far away, who you know is going through a tough time.
- Tell five people on social media what you love most about them. Be sure to use lots of emojis or add an appropriate GIF. Write out specific prayers you are praying for them.
- Hunt down a former teacher on Facebook®. Leave a post on their wall with a specific memory you have of him/her. Thank the teacher for pouring into your young life.
Proverbs 11:25 declares, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (NIV). There are many places each week where you will be in the world—whether in person or online. Let’s determine this week to generously bring refreshment to those you meet along the way, making what could be a boring layover a blast instead!
Karen Ehman is a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and New York Times bestselling author. Described as profoundly practical, engagingly funny, and downright real, her passion is to help women to live their priorities and love their lives as they serve God and others.
She has authored fourteen books and Bible studies including the New York Times bestseller Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It and When to Say Nothing at All. Her most recent devotional, co-authored with Ruth Schwenk of The Better Mom is entitled Settle My Soul: 100 Quiet Moments to Meet with Jesus and was just selected as the 2020 Devotional and Gift Book of the Year. She also recently released a Bible study with Lifeway on the letter of Philippians called What Matters Most.