“How come when _____ and _____ come over, we have to clean up their mess?” my sons ask me, almost in unison as they are knee deep in toys they have to put away.

“Do you know what hospitality is?” I begin, feeling one of those “The More You Know” moments that parents love to use as teaching opportunities. “It means we welcome folks into our house as family. It’s why so many people come over to our house so often and feel comfortable. It’s why we have labels on all of our cabinet doors (ok ,that we do cause we’re lazy). It’s why we sometimes have extra dishes to wash. Sometimes have extra groceries to buy. Sometimes have extra trash to take out. Sometimes have extra toys to pick up.

“And you know what? Family is messy. So hospitality means meeting a person where they are. Opening up our homes and lives helps create a sense of intimacy and erases the disconnect that people naturally carry with them. But the true secret of hospitality is to do all of that without complaining. If you’re going to do it grudgingly, you might as well not do it.

“It’s funny: I never considered hospitality a lost art or even how much of a gift it is.”

Uncle Nick says that the Greeks invented hospitality.”

“How many times have I told you not to listen to Uncle Nick? In fact, you only just met him at Mo*Con, why do you keep calling him Uncle Nick? Anyway, you get to go over to _____ and _____’s house so you know what you do there?”

“Mess it up?”

“Exactly.”*

*Okay, I MAY have actually been responsible and said something about being a good guest and cleaning up after themselves. You’ll never know. Unless you’re the parents of _____ and _____.

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