This needs to be posted above every door to every home in my immediate family:
Welcome to the Family
Rather than “welcome to our home,” the above phrase accurately describes my family’s mantra. Homes are a private place, a sanctuary, a respite. Homes are where we are truly ourselves and that’s a very intimate thing to witness. When we invite you into our homes, we are inviting you to enter into our lives.
For as long as I can remember, new friends have always been welcomed into my parents’ home. It doesn’t matter if my parents knew them or not; if my sister and I invited them over, they were made to feel like family rather than guests. We’ve had holiday dinners with multiple countries represented because various cousins had friends/co-workers/classmates in town. We’ve had local servicemen over for meals because we knew they couldn’t be where they would rather be: home.
Growing up, all of my friends called my mom “Mom,” not Mrs. And once a friend had been to our house, any return visits were welcomed (planned or not) and it was expected that they could help themselves to whatever snacks or drinks they wanted. Friends were taken on camping trips and friends of friends were invited to birthday parties. And, depending on how long we’ve known you, ringing the doorbell before you enter is silly.
Our house may not always be guest-ready and we are (for the most part) ok with that. We’ve had new friends over who were offered a drink in exchange for assistance with moving furniture and floor samples. Random cookie baking days include anyone available at the time. And new acquaintances from across the world are invited to stay overnight to avoid long drives and help facilitate longer visits.
When you meet my family for more than 10 seconds, you are given an invitation. You are invited to join us not as a guest but as another member of the family. My mom and my sister can bring a shy stranger into the fold faster than anyone I’ve ever known. The warmth my sister and I extend toward strangers/acquaintances/co-workers/friends/extended family is a diluted sample of the concentrated love my parents extend to everyone in their lives.
In our family, if my sister, my mom, my dad or I know you, then the rest of us know you, too. I frequently stay with friends of my parents from their high school years that I didn’t grow up with. These friends have always lived a good 6-8 hours away, and yet when I’m up in that area, I stay at their place and we get along like long-lost best friends.
So it comes as no surprise to me that the day after my sister announced her pregnancy, the boys (MY BOYS) friended her on Facebook and congratulated her. The only time my sister ever met the boys was the afternoon of my second embryo transfer. Via FaceTime! Two hopeful parents from far away met my sister who lives far away (from me) on the internet and they are already treating each other like family!
As often as an invitation is extended to join our family, it’s amazing and heartwarming to realize that the invitation is still given with as much warmth and love as if it were a special privilege. Because it is. Each person we invite into our homes, our lives, is special. We offer genuine hospitality.
And I am blessed to be a part of that.