On Hospitality & Dirty Underwear

Because Little Bean arrived two weeks early, we were able to make a trip to the North East to attend a good friend’s wedding. Though I wasn’t sure about embarking on such a long trip in the car, we decided to take it slowly with lots of stops along the way. After all, I knew going into it that it would be more stressful for me than for the Bean. And it was, but it was worth it. She got to meet grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and lots of friends as we headed to the Cape.

But that journey isn’t what this post is about.

This post is about the fact that we were away from our house for two weeks. And we left the house in a bit of a jumble, as you do when you’re preparing a two-week trip with a five-week-old baby. Not just cluttered messy, but dirt-under-your-bare-feet-on-the-kitchen-floor messy.

A few days into the trip, we received a phone call asking if an out-of-town visitor could stay at our house for a night. While we were gone. From our jumbled house.

My instinct was to say yes immediately, and I did.

But I also knew what would happen because it happened before, when a different friend had called and asked if a different out-of-town visitor could stay at our house a different time when we were away. (I said yes in that case, too.)

This is what happened: my mind went to the dirty dishes in the sink, the dirt that had accumulated on the kitchen floor and dust bunnies in the living room, the spoiled food in the frig I’d meant to toss out, you know, all of the things I’d really wanted to clean up before we left that I just didn’t get to. I started to get anxious, mentally wandering through each room, trying to figure out how embarrassing it would be. It isn’t exactly my most admirable trait.

I like to pat myself on the back and say, “See, look how hospitable I am. I let people stay in my house when it’s a mess and I don’t even mind.” But that’s not true.

I do mind.

I confess that when we got home, I wandered through the house grimacing at, for example, the dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, including underwear. Ick. Underwear. Why didn’t I pick that up before I left?

It’s hard to be hospitable.Β I think it’s because it’s hard to be vulnerable.

But it seems to me that we can’t be vulnerable, hospitable, or heck, community at all unless we’re willing to sigh at the dirty underwear.

And move on.

And still say yes.

Well, and leave clean sheets on the guest bed when you go out of town.

Which I did do, for the record.


12 comments on “On Hospitality & Dirty Underwear

  1. Craig says:

    “It’s hard to be hospitable. I think it’s because it’s hard to be vulnerable.”

    ^That might be the most insightful comment you’ve written in this blog yet. And that’s saying quite a bit.

    Glad to read the trip was worth it, even if it was stressful.

  2. Beth M says:

    this reminds me of a friend who volunteered her home for a night (while she was still there, though) and then the basement flooded with sewage. she, of course, was embarrassed as well.

    this is a good story, and i hope i remember it when i am asked to be equally vulnerable, even in an entirely different way.

    • elizabeth says:

      Oh my! What an embarrassing and yet memorable experience… I can totally imagine that happening to me, actually. *Knock on formica*

  3. Jane says:

    Oh Liz I am so happy to be able to keep ‘in touch’ with you via FB, your brother and/or your blog. If I lived nearer I would have run over and picked up and even done your kitchen floor. I miss having contact with students like you. Happy you had a nice trip. Congrats on the new little ‘bean’. Anxious for more details and a photo or two! Jane Rising

    • elizabeth says:

      Ah, Mrs. Rising! So good to hear from you! Perhaps we can see each other one of these times we get up to Pennsylvania. I’ll e-mail you some photos.

  4. Darla says:

    Loved this posting! Who could not identify with it? I agree with Craig that your comment about being hospitable opens one up to being vulnerable is extremely insightful. Whether it is an overnight guest, people for dinner, or an unexpected visitor, your private world, in whatever shape it is, is open to the scrutiny of others. So enjoyed seeing you and little bean tonight. Both you and Clara Sophia were so peaceful and emitted such positive energy. I am looking forward to getting to know her and running into you at Brogers! Much love to all three of you.

    • elizabeth says:

      Thanks, Darla. Sorry we left early and couldn’t visit with everyone after the discussion. After 3 diaper changes and her refusal to sleep, it seemed necessary to get home. πŸ™‚ I did listen to most of the discussion from the next room though. So fascinating.

      See you soon!

  5. Momma says:

    What a great idea to leave extra clean sheets on top of the guest bed!!!!

  6. Glenna says:

    This is so real….made me laugh. Thank you! I think when this happens though, they do understand.

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