Friday, July 16, 2010

My Model Mom

A few years ago, our local paper ran a “Model Mom” contest, asking people to provide an essay explaining the most important lesson they learned from their mom.  I emailed my submission per the instructions….then never heard back, nor saw the “Model Mom” feature in any upcoming issues.  I was pretty bummed, since there was supposed to be “a prize fit for a model mom!”  Recently, while clearing out some clutter (fit to be moved by a new model bulldozer), I ran across my original submission and decided to share what I wrote about the best lesson I learned from my mom.  (And from looking at my home, it seems the lesson I should have learned is that I don’t need to save every little thing “just in case” since “just in case” rarely, if ever, happens.)

“The most important lesson my mom taught me is the gift of hospitality.  Not entertaining, with lots of preparation and planning and impressive food and decorations…although she DID teach me that too.  The real lesson was in true hospitality, which always cost less in money, but “cost” more in time and thought.

Our family of five lived in a small, neat and tidy 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom, no upstairs, no basement home.  Many will say they have a small house, and I’ve even heard people say they can’t have people over because their house is too small.  Our house was 576 square feet.  Five people.  (Did I mention we were homeschooled?)  We qualify for saying that we truly grew up in a small home.  [Not-in-original-submission side note here: to give you a visual, a standard 2 ½ car garage is about the size of my childhood home…yeah, really small for a house.]  Mom always taught us that hospitality was about the other person and extending friendship, and NOT about the home itself.  She taught it, she believed it and she practiced it.

As a child, I remember it being a regular occurrence that people came over for a meal or coffee and dessert.  Despite our small home, no one ever refused an invitation due to the size of the house or having to squeeze in around the table.  My mom was (and still is) very others oriented and she realized early on that hospitality is something one must purpose to do.  She never waited to have a 5-course meal prepared and freshly ironed linens on the table before asking a family, or a new widow, or a neighbor to come over.  Mom saw a need to reach out to those around her and she did it.  People learned we had an “open door policy” and could always count on a fresh cup of coffee, a listening ear, and possibly fresh-baked muffins.  Having friends into our home went beyond the “obligatory” reasons: holidays, kid’s birthday parties, baby showers, etc.  Having people over was a regular occurrence and it taught me life-lasting principals.

When I got married and had my own home, I purposed to practice hospitality on a regular basis.  [Another side note: it took some practice to convince myself that the house didn’t HAVE to be perfect and the food amazing before opening my door.  In hindsight, I wonder why we have to practice being normal in front of others?!?!]  Now, no matter how busy we get, my kids and husband are never surprised to walk in the door and find people gathered around the table.  It’s rarely a fancy meal – we often order a pizza or throw some hotdogs on the grill.  Sometimes it’s coffee and brownies in the afternoon or chips and salsa.  (Mom also taught me to keep a baked dessert in the freezer or a fast snack in the cabinet to serve on those spur-of-the-moment occasions.)  In my experience, no one has ever turned down an offer of friendship and hospitality just because the floors are in serious need of a sweeping, or because there are 2 (or 3) (ok, fine….probably 4) baskets of clean laundry in the living room, or because I can’t actually see my kitchen counter.  (…or the top of the china cabinet…or the desk…)  It’s not about the house or the food.  It’s about the friendship and the thought behind it.

Mom taught me to worry less about my house and care more about others, and to use my home as a shelter to more than just my family.  And, I understand something she has known for years.  When reaching out to those around me, it usually ends up being me who receives the biggest blessing!  Mom, thanks for teaching me a life-lessons that can’t be taught from a book!”

I think it’s the paper’s loss that they never ran with the idea of printing “Model Mom” submissions because I would have loved to hear other’s stories!

And, I bet my mom is wondering how I never picked up on her “use it or toss it” mantra.  It’s like I’m stuck in the “save it to potentially use it” mode.  *Sigh*  Be warned: you’ll have to move a basket or two the next time you come over.