Updated: Jan 5
As a kid, my family was always hosting dinner parties on the weekends and over holidays. It was either my big Italian American family on my mom's side or our Iranian American friends from my dad's side. Both Italian and Iranian (among so many others) cultures love food, family, friends and in my opinion are the most hospitable and generous people you'll ever meet. Luckily I had the best of both worlds right at home.
My parents have always been very gracious and welcoming hosts. They taught my sisters very early on how to be hospitable and giving to every person who comes into our house. From helping out in the kitchen to serving tea and desserts, we were always expected to serve others in our home to not only make them feel comfortable, but valued and respected.
This is something I usually enjoyed (sometimes I just wanted to play!). I loved the smiles and appreciation from guests and the approval of my parents of course. After dinner my dad would ask my sisters and I to walk around with a tray and serve each guest sweets and steaming hot amber tea in tiny clear glasses (called chai in Persian). This is something I love about Iranian culture, it takes generosity to the next level!
In my teens, I started working in the hospitality industry and did all the way through college. I remember at my first job, my boss said that it's important to go the extra mile for people. That stuck with me for some reason. It's a way to connect with people and make them feel important. Serving was something I became really good at and something I found easy and enjoyable. I was a natural when it came to good customer service and multitasking with guests. Well, aside from the one time I spilled a drink on a customer's lap, oops!
Hospitality to me is a feeling. As the receiver, it's a feeling of respect, welcome, value, love and being seen. As the giver, it's a feeling of openness, pride, warmth and joy when making others feel welcome. My mom Jane is so good at this stuff that she started a hospitality consulting business for churches (www.ministryblueprints.com).
Teaching kids about hospitality doesn't have to elaborate or over the top, especially in the time of the pandemic. It could be something simple like offering a sibling or parent the first scoop of spaghetti and meatballs or retrieving everyone's preferred drink at dinner. In some cultures, people pour everyone's drink before their own. It could be having your kids clear everyone's plates not just their own. These small acts can lead to wonderful habits as they grow up.
As a mom to 2 young kids, my husband (who is also Iranian) and I are teaching our kids how to be hospitable and generous. Our 6 year old son loves to play outside with the neighborhood kids and when they're over in our yard playing we encourage him to offer them cans of drinks, packaged snacks and toys before taking something himself. He has been receptive to this and I can see how happy he is when he gives something to a friend. As an art studio owner, I also try to do a fun craft outside with the neighbor kids which hopefully makes me a cool mom is my son's book. I want to be that home that always gives and makes people feel welcome and cared for.
This pandemic has been extremely difficult for so many people and there are still ways we can teach our kids to be hospitable and generous. I know it's not always easy to expect kids to be helping out at dinner or generous with others, it's a normal part of child development to think about one's self, but with your own consistent actions kids will learn that's just what you do!
10 ways to practice generosity & hospitality with kids during COVID-19:
Shovel a neighbors sidewalk or driveway or rake a part of their yard.
Drop off a home baked treat at a friend's doorstep.
Ask kids to donate a few toys and some clothes instead of us doing it for them.
Have kids draw pictures to send to their friends & family via snail mail.
Host a tea party for stuffed animal friends (offering beverages & treats to everyone else first).
Have kids initiate a FaceTime call with their grandparents to check in and see how their day is going.