Have we lost the art of hospitality?

When the boys and I venture out to the park or into an existing playgroup we encounter the divide. The cliques and established community of parents getting together for the kids. There seems to be this impenetrable shell that you have have to claw your way through to hang out with other moms and dads in these social groups. But what is that exactly that we are fighting through. I think at the heart of all these groups in a desire to connect with other parents and to see our kids playing and interacting with other kids. If that is true then why is it so hard to get passed that cold shoulder that we all feel when coming into these groups? I think that we have lost the art of hospitality and we are waiting for someone else to make the connection that we all want.

It was hard at first, showing up to music time where the Urban Momma Mafia seemed to have the couches and good seats around the singer on lock down. I felt like they were specifically keeping me and my kids out and generally keeping anyone new on the periphery. As I thought about it more though I came to think this wasn’t true. I had to assume that, if given the opportunity, these women would like to connect with me, or at least their kids with mine. On the latest Band of SAHD podcast Chris and I talked about the loss of hospitality among parents in these groups. Chris talked about being in Uganda and feeling like he was immediately part of every family he met because of the hospitality he was shown. People would go out of their way to make outsiders feel like they were on the inside, and they would do it quickly.

In the business world the art of the introduction is valuable skill to have. There are a couple of easy rules to follow, introduce the lower profile person to the higher profile person and point out what they have in common. “Mrs. Bigwig this is Mr. Johnson, he has his pilot’s license as well.” Now they know each other’s name, have a point of connection, and can have an easy conversation starter. In playgroups and kids gatherings this is much harder because you are coming in blind but I think we can still all be better about making those connections. Since I assume that people would like to connect I know that I need to be the one that makes that connection. That means doing much of the work socially and does get exhausting but I think it’s important. Starting with the one connection I know we do have:  kids, I start the conversation and try to find more connections. It is putting yourself out there for rejection, and at times getting that rejection, but to me that is better then living these disconnected lives around each other but not with each other.

We may never become friends or share a warm spot on the couch and blanket like the picture above but maybe we will have 10 minutes of connection with some one. Hospitality is an art form that needs to be practiced to be perfected and I think we can all use some more practice. There are times when someone else should be making the introductions but they just don’t know how. Assume that they want to know you, they are just out of practice and make that first step.

  14 comments for “Have we lost the art of hospitality?

  1. Pop
    11/05/2010 at 9:10 am

    I dunno. Your beard and your love of beer makes me think I wouldn’t mind sharing a warm spot on the couch and blanket with you.

    But you’re absolutely right about hospitality, but common courtesy is dying too. Simple things like holding the door, saying ‘thank you,’ and raising your hand when a car lets you in.
    Pop´s last blog post ..Be Cool- Stay in Home School

  2. 11/05/2010 at 9:14 am

    This is fantastic and I am glad you said it. I suppose the best policy is to lead by example and I am glad you do, b/c you touch on another important point, that these kids are not learning hospitality either. I am very glad to have found your site. Cheers!
    Tina´s last blog post ..Open Letter to Mom Bloggers

  3. 11/05/2010 at 10:07 am

    Good post and good discussion I think we had about this on the latest Band of SAHD podcast: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/band_of_sahd/2010/11/04/band-of-sahd-weekly-podcast
    Chris´s last blog post ..Farewell to Brian McBride- a US soccer legend retires

    Portlanddad Reply:

    Yeah it was that conversation that led to this post

  4. 11/05/2010 at 11:11 am

    I had always thought that just by having kids you’d automatically have an in, but I’m quickly finding out it is more like you are talking about, and it makes me sad.
    twistedxtian´s last blog post ..Sprout’s Ultrasound Tomorrow!

    Portlanddad Reply:

    The kids gives us an in but we don’t take advantage of it enough

  5. 11/05/2010 at 12:18 pm

    that makes me sad. if I had kids, I’d tooootally welcome new kids in the group! the more the merrier has always been my M.O.
    andygirl´s last blog post ..My First Halloween in Portland

    Portlanddad Reply:

    I think that is how most are, they just don’t know how to be open. Maybe it is protective parenting, maybe it’s just lazyness. But it happens to all of us.

  6. 11/05/2010 at 11:55 pm

    I’ve tried to give up being offended or feeling left out. My experiences at the school gate (which I was new to this year) made me realise that all the cool stand offishness (?) is often nerves. I just try to make sure I’m inclusive and welcoming.

  7. Del
    11/06/2010 at 12:10 pm

    Competition has gotten out of hand these days. It’s about where you live and what socioeconomic class you can group yourself in.

    The downfall, IMO is the distance Americans create among each other. People want large houses so every family member has their own area. It’s good for consumerism cause then we want our own things. Sometimes people like different things than the next person just to be different or sometimes just to not like what the person next to them have.

    This is good for interests and especially politics. You can draw dividing lines in communities based on different issues (especially now with redistricting,) which all tie into our modern political system. And this can be seen in a setting such as the one you just stated. They may think your of a different political class or culture, who knows but their minds.

    It could also be your not able to mesh with them because views, money, where you live, maybe skin color. The list can go on and on. But too many people want to act like none of the things I mentioned should affect people and society. But they do allday, everyday.

    Then to top it all off, too many people want to be part of groups, and many dont like to do what others want cause they dont like them. In my view, being an independent mind means you can be part of any group, not just a handful.

    Like I tell my wife, there are 300 million Americans in this nation. And I am sure 10’s of millions of them are moms. There are more than enough people to meet. But I could see it being hard for those who stay in their communities, which is why you need to get out. SocialMedia helps to meet people on the other side of town.

    I see parents all the time acting like spoiled large kids. Best way I can see to meet people of your interest is to keep looking or start butting in to convos. You will get the asses that will walk away abut you may find the people who have something worth knowing. Some people just don’t like others. It has to do who they were brought up. I wonder if it’s a chemical thing, like some anger tick, or if they are just pissed off or just need some affection.

    Bringing this topic up will help us all to better understand it.

  8. 11/06/2010 at 3:06 pm

    Yes, we get that feeling a lot too. I think it has a lot to do with how busy people are these days. They don’t want another thing to clutter up thier minds. Esp on weekends when they need time to relax. In short there is too much going on the go out our their way to let someone else in.

    We try to work our way past that. Great post.
    Seattledad (Luke, I am Your Father)´s last blog post ..Its Good to be King

  9. jamie
    11/09/2010 at 10:49 am

    I don’t think we should worry about what some stranger is thinking I think we should just forge ahead and start a conversation. Who cares what their social back ground is or how much money they make. They are having the same insecurities that we are they just show it differently. Get yourself a good opening statement that you are confortable with and one that is non-threatening and go for it. Someone has to start the conversation and if it is you your children will learn how to approach what may appear to be a closed group more confortably. Don’t give that stranger the power to make YOU feel back about yourself. Their snobiness is their problem and if they choose not to accept you that is certainly THEIR lose!

    jamie Reply:

    oops, I was so excited I made a few typos….sorry

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