The frosting was made from a pudding packet and a bag of sour cream. No one was more surprised than I by the fact that it actually tasted good. The occasion was the surprise visit by ten visiting young people from Kyrgyzstan.
My mother always laughs when I throw together a meal for a large group of people. When her closest friend comes over she is paralyzed for the entirety of the preceding week with the dread and fear of hosting. What will she prepare? Which towel will she lay out? What if a tornado hits and we don't have enough bottled water for our guest?
My sister and I have always excelled in hospitality. It's equal parts all-in bravery and our absolute lack of concern about what others think of us. Where our mother frets about the stain on the carpet, Rebecca would just place a pillow over it and explain that she's doing the Indian thing now.
I've always loved throwing a party, and my philosophy is always, "the more the merrier." The trick is to always cook for thirty and either eat leftovers for a month or buy more bread to stretch it a bit depending on how many show up.
I remember the year that mom slaved away to make a cranberry chutney for thanksgiving. She painstakingly minced all of the ingredients, eager and excited to try a new dish. She was afraid of anything going to waste so she just made a sampler sized portion, with a promise to make more next year if it was well received. She explained the ingredients and what chutney meant at the dinner table, and took a spoonful and passed the bowl to her right. Grandma Airgood held the little green glass bowl in her hands and said, "There's not enough here for everyone to eat it." Before passing it to the next person without taking any. We all dutifully passed it to the next person without sampling any. We never heard the word chutney again in our lives, it became one of the cuss words we weren't allowed to say.
My gift is hospitality, because I am really good at being hospitable and also really good at receiving hospitality. There have been months where I lived entirely off of the kindness of others. I couldn't have survived and made it on my own without gladly accepting hand-outs and hand-ups. Like the month I just ate at the Methodist church in Toccoa. Showing up at lunch time and looking for a group nibbling on sandwich halves might seem humiliating, but I was poor and people were kind and generous. The ladies knitting group never questioned my presence or the fact that I took leftover home with me. Grandma Alma gladly paid my Wednesday night meal ticket after that one mean old man complained that I hadn't paid.
I think that I'm good at hospitality because I had to receive so much of it. It makes me wonder about the other gifts of the spirit. It makes me wonder if we would have more of them if we only needed and experienced them more.