Some of my earliest memories are of celebrating Eid in Saudi Arabia. We would put on our best clothes, grab sweets and small presents and go from house to house, celebrating with friends. The same traditions continued when I moved to Pakistan and to the United Arab Emirates. People were always coming and going from our home. It was a very warm and welcoming place. My mother, an impeccable hostess, always had hot tea, delicious snacks and beautiful china ready to go in case someone happened to drop by.
When we moved to the United States, however, these visits were far less frequent. Many Pakistanis came to our home from our community, but we really did not receive invitations to dine at American people’s homes. This sentiment is echoed by others who are foreigners or even are people of other ethnicity who live here.
When I bring it up to people, many look at me wistfully and then tell me that stopping by a friend’s home for a cup of tea went away in the 1950’s. It is old-fashioned and just not done anymore – kind of like writing in cursive or sending a letter with a stamp on it.
Those who know me, know that I have a love of all things old. I love Victorian England and all the things that go with it. I like the fussiness of proper manners, correct grammar, and the idea of long dresses with rows of buttons. I like the slower pace of life and even the old European tradition of calling cards and paying calls on friends. If I mention this out in public today, people tell me to go to Wal Mart to get a calling card (as if I am getting ready to call international long distance) or paying calls (no one even knows what it means to pay a call, other than your phone bill at the end of the month).
At my family’s home, there is a long-standing tradition of tea time at 4:00 pm. I have mentioned this in my post about the concept of time in other cultures. This is something I have held onto all my life. Even today, my friends know that around 4:00 pm, there I will be sitting at my kitchen table, drinking a cup of tea. I also know that around the same time daily, I can find my parents doing the same thing across the United States. It’s a tradition and it is so soothing – like a cool oasis in the middle of the desert.
Even when I worked full time, I would stop what I was doing and make a quick cup of tea at 4:00 pm. My co-workers began to join me in this tradition because nearly everyone experiences a mid-day slump around that time. It makes the rest of the day go by exceedingly fast.
A cup of hot tea has a wonderful soothing property to it. There is nothing like making a little pause in the middle of one’s day to STOP everything and just take a small breather to drink tea. It is a refined tradition and one I love to pass on to my friends. I have had the chance to make real friendships, make a connection and share my home with many. Some of these people I have known for a long time. Others may be people I have just met once or twice.
People are generally surprised at the offer of coming over to my home for a spot of tea. I am met usually with a smile of surprise. It is much more common to get together at Starbucks or somewhere else. Hospitality, along with a cup of tea has also gone by the wayside. When I ask women why that is the case, many tell me that they feel pressure to have their home “just right.” With three children, I find myself wondering when that day might come! I don’t think we have had our home looking “just right” since the day we moved in. If I waited around for that very day, I shudder to think of all the beautiful conversations, the tears of sorrow, the new friendships and renewing of old friends I would have missed out on.
In the Bible, there is mention of hospitality being a part of the new church in Acts. In fact, there is a passage that I think of often “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts… ~Acts 2:46“ So many Christians close off their homes to others, citing one reason after another. Even though I have entertained many people in our home, an invitation in return to come to other people’s homes is still sparse. Is it an indication of some who are uncomfortable to see our personal life and living space – to not be able to “come as you are.”
When you come to my home, you will see my daughter’s toys around the fireplace in our living room. You will sometimes see a pile of freshly washed laundry being sorted. You will see my jewelry tools and beads scattered about on the kitchen island. It’s not perfect, but then neither am I. I see this as a sort of ministry (yes, to have a messy home – not dirty, but messy!). I have had women tell me that seeing my house as it is makes them want to invite someone over and not have that pressure to have it looking like a model home.
If we keep wearing masks, we miss out on endless opportunities. There is something freeing about “come as you are.” There is something authentic about people seeing your home with dishes in the sink. There is something genuine about reaching across the table and sharing a plate of cookies with a steaming cup of hot tea. The Bible teaches Christians to open their homes as a sacrificial way to love others. It is such a simple way to promote UNITY in the Church and is a wonderful way to build relationships for Evangelism.
May we be like the early church share our home with others. May we have open hearts, open doors and open invitations to others. May we comfort others as God comforts us. Amen.
P.S. Yes, consider this as an open invitation to join me at my house for a cup of tea!