Cold Shoulder, Warm Heart
Julie Barr from the SF team writing on hospitality, linking to our Ultimate Invitation theme.
In modern understanding, ‘being given the cold shoulder’ is about being ignored or excluded. There are several different explanations for the origin of the phrase, however the one that most people know comes from folklore. It was said that welcome guests were always offered a hot meal on their arrival. Those who were less welcome, or who had overstayed their welcome as a house guest, were presented with cold mutton, the eponymous ‘cold shoulder’.
Food is and has always been part of the way that we make people feel welcome in our homes whether they are expected or just pop in out of the blue. Extending hospitality to others is one very tangible way of saying you are welcome here and we value your presence whether at home, in business, or in our churches.
My Granny’s house was always busy. She had a large family so with her children, grandchildren, and latterly great grandchildren popping in to see her (not to mention her numerous friends) there was always someone arriving unexpectedly. She didn’t hold with the modern manners of offering just tea and biscuits to visitors (even if they were chocolate ones!). Anyone coming in was given a hearty bowl of homemade soup or a steak sandwich on thick slices of plain bread. I can never remember visiting without a large cauldron of Scotch Broth or Ham End bubbling away on the stove.
Granny often told stories about her childhood. Her household was not a wealthy one but they were more fortunate than many others. She told a tale about a friend’s mother who always kept a sack of potatoes and pin head oatmeal. If her family brought home friends unexpectedly from school then the potatoes were scrubbed, boiled, and put into a large earthen wear bowl with butter and the oatmeal sprinkled on top. Everyone shared the meal, which while simple was hot and filling, from the communal bowl. She would always say that the warmth of the welcome made these the best tasting tatties anyone could eat.
Most of us will have favourite recipes that we use for entertaining when we know in advance that guests are coming. We will also have the quick recipes that can be made from store cupboard items for unexpected visitors. We would never give the ‘cold shoulder’ to these people because they are family, friends, neighbours, acquaintances or even work colleagues; but if you are “nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don't know God are nice to their friends.” (Matthew 5:47 NCV).
So how do we extend the range of our hospitality? How do we show our love and avoid giving the ‘cold shoulder’ by ignoring or excluding people and instead be more proactive in inviting them in? If we start to really think about it there are many answers to that question and a wealth of possibilities. If you want to explore this further then take a look at our Ultimate Invitation discussion questions.
We don’t even need to wait for a guest to visit us to extend hospitality. Most towns now have a foodbank and we can act as host to people we don’t even know and will probably never meet, by contributing. James from the SF team has an interesting ‘tin can meditation’ on this subject that you can listen to on our podcast which can perhaps make this a more mindful process.