This weekend I watched Babette’s Feast…twice. It is one of my all-time favourite movies (food is my love language after all). After the second viewing I had a discussion with a couple of friends about many aspects of the movie, but we seemed to settle on the idea of hospitality. Like many of my other discussions surrounding hospitality, the general consensus is that hospitality is dead.
When I was a child my mother, brother and I lived with my grandparents. Each Sunday, my grandma would leave a little bit early from church to go home and put the final touches on Sunday Dinner. We would arrive back at the house with around 10-20 other people, gather around the table, gorge ourselves on roast beef dinner or ham and scalloped potatoes and banter about church and/or hockey. Usually, the crowd consisted of aunts, uncles and cousins, but we often had friends and strangers over as well.
In contrast, today after church, we had “Soup Sunday”. After the second service we gathered in the foyer, stood around tables, ate a bowl of soup and were gone before a half hour was up. I’m not saying that this is bad, or ineffective – on the contrary, it was lovely to chat with some people I otherwise wouldn’t see because I go to the early service but it was different from the days of my youth and I would guess uncommon, for those who do not belong to a faith community.
In Vancouver, they say that there is an epidemic of isolation. A number of years ago the Vancouver foundation conducted a survey. Of those surveyed, 1 in 3 people said they considered Vancouver a difficult place to make friends, most people don’t socialize with their neighbors nor have any desire to get to know them. About half don’t volunteer in their communities and while most agree that diversity is a good thing, most prefer to be with others from their own ethnic group.
Question #1: Is globalization to blame for the lack of hospitality?
Before Christmas, Jakob planned a Christmas Party for his friends. One person responded. We cancelled the party. I was heart broken for him. I knew exactly how he felt. The mother who responded kindly replied to my cancellation notice. She wrote,
“2yrs ago we decided to throw a Christmas Party for my daughter and her soccer team and no one responded. It seems that this is something they just do not do. So we continue to have our Christmas party with our international friends and those who have not grown up in Canadian culture and those (though Canadian) have traveled the world all attend and have fun. So don’t take this personally. “
How do you not take it personally when you plan a dinner, a party or an event and no one wants to come, and/or can’t even have the decency to respond? And yet, I already know this truth she speaks. The one time in my adult life that I experienced rich hospitality was when Ben and I were part of a group we affectionately and jokingly name the “Inter-racial marriage support group.” We were all Canadian, but happened to come from different ethnic backgrounds and regularly shared meals together. It was divine.
Question #2: Do internationals and vagabonds appreciate hospitality more because they know what it feels like to be in a new place and have a need for friendship?
I saw a book the other day in Chapters and was very tempted to buy it as it looked like it was placed on the shelf just for me. It was by Mindy Kaling and was entitled, “Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me (And Other Concerns)” This is basically how I feel every day. Perhaps hospitality is happening, just without me, and perhaps the reason the people I talk to feel the same is because they are on the outside like me.
Question #3: Is Hospitality Dead or just more discriminating?
Inviting someone over for a meal or a party has because not to far off from trying to sell them an entire set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Not that I have tried the latter.
Question #4: Do people not entertain because it seems like too much work?
Keep in mind that I write this all as an introvert. I recharge when I am alone in my house, mostly in silence BUT being an introvert does not mean that I do not need friends or social interaction. It just means that instead of a party, I would rather have a couple of people over for a meal, or go out for a cup of coffee. E. M. Forster would ask,
Question #5: Is the Internet making people more introverted?
So let’s take account of what we’ve been over and where we are headed.
Internationals are better at hospitality – Canada is becoming increasingly multicultural.
But people like to hang out with their own ethnicity – so where does that leave all of us half-breeds?
People are becoming more introverted because we sit at home (or in our underground rooms) just sharing ideas with no repercussions or responsibility to dialogue and this is becoming increasingly so.
Question #6: Under what circumstances will we ever be able to see a revival in hospitality or is it on its way out, never to return?