I’ve been writing about hospitality lately, and it occurs to me that there is an art to being a good guest, too. Receiving hospitality properly means arriving in good time, using proper manners, and possibly taking a hostess gift.
Last night, we were supposed to arrive at the home of our pastor Collier and his wife Nettie at 6:30. (Once a month, our Elkhart church group of 15 meets for a meal.) At 6:21, I pulled into our driveway, just getting home from work. I ran inside and tried to put myself together, but we still didn’t arrive at our destination until probably 6:40 or 6:45. I had been eating meat and vegetables all day in an effort to improve my diet, but now I was in weekend mode and birthday spirit. Nettie had made lasagna, breadsticks, and salad, and every bite was delicious. Then she passed out angel food cake slices followed by ice cream, thickened strawberries and peaches, and Cool Whip, basically my favorite food in the world.
We ate the dessert and everyone else began politely drinking coffee and chatting. I was thinking of how delicious the brown crust and soft interior of the cake had been.
I leaned over to Marnell and whispered, “I wonder if it’s impolite to ask for another piece of angel food cake?”
Unfortunately, we happened to be sitting right beside Collier, whose ears are apparently like radar. His wife was around the corner in the kitchen and he called to her, “Nettie, Katrina wants another piece of angel food cake!”
Roughly fifteen pairs of eyes turned my way.
“Hey, I said that really quietly,” I said, “but yes, I do, even though I’m afraid it’s impolite to ask for seconds of dessert!”
“You don’t have to be embarrassed,” Collier said, “you’re turning bright red!”
Once I start turning red, there’s no going back.
I glanced back at Marnell.
“Are you embarrassed of me, Dear?” He didn’t reassure me that he wasn’t.
“Don’t worry Katrina, we know that happens when you’re pregnant,” Collier said. “You get those cravings!”
“I’m not pregnant!” I protested, before I remembered that you should never make a policy of denying that you’re pregnant, because then what will you say if you are sometime?
By this time Nettie had arrived with the slice, to which I added minimal toppings, and thoroughly consumed. Thankfully, the discussion turned to the fact that angel food cake is really quite healthy in the realm of desserts. I also explained to Nettie that I have a small sentimental attachment for angel food cake, because of my mom’s love for it.
After the meal was over and we had discussed prayer meeting, re-organization, and other topics of vision for the new church, we ended with prayer and people began to disband from the table.
“Nettie, look how nice your poinsettia is!” I heard Velinda saying. “This is the one from your wedding Katrina!”
Indeed, under Nettie’s care, it had revived. Even the leaves my aunt had carefully painted white were back to full health, with the white frosting still on them.
“I always was a little disappointed I never got any,” I said. “I mean, I wanted them to be given away,” I clarified. I had only hoped a couple would be left and had forgotten to say so.
“Do you want this one?” Nettie asked. “You can have it!”
“Oh, I don’t want to take yours,” I said.
But you guessed it. Instead of taking a gift for the hostess, I took a gift home.
“If it starts dying again, bring it back to Nettie,” Collier said in parting.
I’m quite pleased with it. It’s almost like a little anniversary of that fun day now more than six months distant.
And now it can be a reminder too, of three things that make a person a good guest, and the day I was the exact opposite of all of them.
Note: our host and hostess were quite gracious, and I felt that they were glad I was there, anyway! That is a great example of hospitality.
Next week: I’ve sent “The Art of Serving Bad Food” to our family writer’s group for critiquing. If it passes their inspection, it will appear next week. Stay tuned, and remember your manners!