In our continuing theme of Hospitality…now that we’re actually in a person’s home as a guest, how should we behave? First of all, we are instructed in the Bible to think about the way that we want to be treated, and then treat others that way. Matthew 7:12–“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” This is commonly referred to as the “Golden Rule.”
How does this play out inside another’s home? This week and next, I will try to paint for you pictures of visits from two extreme examples of different kinds of guests: the first visit is from the Golden Guest and next week we will be visited by The Ghastly Guest. But let’s meet the Goldens.
The Goldens Come For A Visit
Just inside your home, the Golden family enters together. Mom and Dad Golden speak quietly to their children as they take their coats off, the young children staying near their parents until instructed that they may do otherwise, especially since they are in your home for the first time. The Golden children answer pleasantly and politely when spoken to, are not whiny, do not interrupt, and are cheerfully interested in being shown the toys that your children own and that they are allowed to play with. They follow the girls/boys of your family and let your children be their guide/host as your children introduce them to their toys, bedroom or play area, and home.
Mrs. Golden inspects where the children will be playing, and makes a mental note as to how it looks when they arrive, in order to return it to this state before they leave. She also notices any harmful objects or influences that she needs to remove out of reach or sight of her younger children. She assesses the situation of their play area, and duly reminds her children of proper behavior, and with a smile, leaves them to their play. (She will never be far away, and will check in frequently.)
The Golden children play carefully with their host’s toys, and ask before taking anything else out, always putting one toy/game away before taking another out. After the Golden children are closer friends with their hosts, perhaps they will take something off the shelf which they know is permitted to be played with, but there will be reserve and care in their behavior, for the Golden parents have trained their children to show care and politeness in the use of other’s belongings.
The Interrupt Rule
The Golden children will come and ask for help, or instruction as to where to go, when they need to use the bathroom. The Golden children have been taught the “interrupt rule”–they will come to their mother, putting a hand on her arm or shoulder. Without looking at them, she will put her hand on top of their hand indicating that she is aware of their presence, but she will listen if you are speaking, encouraging you to finish what you are saying, and finish speaking to you.
The Golden children, not interrupting their mother’s conversation, wait until their mother recognizes an appropriate moment, and looking at them, says, “Yes?” They don’t jump around or tug at their mother’s arm or cause a disturbance in any way, but simply stand patiently waiting. The Golden mother then will accompany her child to make sure that they know where the bathroom is, and help them, if they are young, leaving the room as they found it.
The Golden children will not leave a mess, or their mother will quickly clean it up, with their help if they are able. When Mrs. Golden needs to change a diaper or nurse a baby, she quietly asks her hostess where she may do so out of the public eye. She also asks where to dispose of dirty diapers and follows through to make sure they are not in the house anywhere they might be an offense. Mr. Golden is also responsibly watching the children, so that when Mrs. Golden is busy, they still know exactly what their children are doing.
Respecting Others’ Property and Privacy
The Golden children would not think of opening up cupboards or drawers or doors to rooms which are closed. The Golden parents have taught their children about public rooms and private rooms. They will not enter rooms which are private without the host parent’s permission. They will ask their own parent before going where they are not sure it is ok. The Golden children will not go into private rooms, and especially a parent’s bedroom, even to follow after their host’s children.
Only after they are much older, and if they know the family extremely well, and for reasons such as to help carry some items the parents have requested or need, will they go into a storage area, separate laundry area, etc. Even then, a parents’ bedroom is considered by them off-limits, unless, for instance, instructed that the bathroom within it is for public use.
Even as older children, they would never enter a room if the door is closed, without asking the hostess, and then only for a very good reason. If, when they are young and with their parents, they are allowed into the host parent’s bedroom for some reason, they will not dream of touching anything. In fact, the Golden children do not touch things that do not belong to them.
Whenever they are in another’s home, the Golden parents remind their young children kindly, and with a smile, not to touch, “Just look with your eyes.” The Goldens talk about the beauty of what they see with their children. Perhaps, at times, the Golden parents will ask permission to pick up an item and hold it for their child to look at while it is still safely in the parent’s careful possession.
The Most Important Part: The Parents’ Example
The Golden parents always model and teach, by word and action, respect for others, kindness, and care for all the things that God has allowed them and others to have, but especial care for others’ belongings. Their family is not stiff and formal, though, but warm and friendly, smiling, and cordial. They are comfortable and easy to be around. They put you at ease. They take responsibility for their own children, whom they are teaching kindness and love, which is the essence of good manners.
At the Heart of the Matter
At home, they talk about good manners, and the love of Christ which is at the heart of it all. They explain that, out of love for God and love for others, we act in certain ways, which we call good manners. The Golden parents can be more and more at ease–though even the Goldens’ children aren’t perfect–because they have trained, not just taught, their children. They know that teaching is just telling or explaining what is right or expected, but training is also telling what the consequences will be, and expecting a change in behavior following the teaching, and then following through with the appropriate and forewarned consequences and more teaching, as needed.
The Golden mom and dad check frequently on their children. They are even more careful and responsible for their children in another’s home than in their own. If anything is broken by one of the children, he will replace it, and the child will say he is sorry, and will work to pay for the item himself, if old enough.
The Golden Rule Acted Out At the Table
The Golden family will graciously eat what’s put in front of them, and the children will eat at least a little bit. They may not like everything, but they will not complain or fuss. They have been trained at home how to be polite. They are still learning, of course, and their manners can’t be expected to be perfect, but their parents are working at home on manners every day and they know not to be loud, to eat some of everything, to thank their hostess politely, and if they are old enough to go off to play, they stay at the table until everyone is finished, and then politely ask the hostess, “Mrs. ____, may I please leave the table.”
Thanking her for the delicious meal, they will clear their plate from the table to the kitchen, before quietly going off to play again. The Golden children (both their boys and girls older than 8) offer to help before and after the meal, and automatically get up and clear the table when the meal is over. Mrs. Golden and her children always offer to wash the dishes, as well.
When they know the family well, the older children just go ahead and begin to wash dishes, and help get things cleaned up. When it is almost time to leave–the Goldens neither leave too early nor too late–the parents give their children a 15-minute warning, and the children cheerfully begin to pick up. Their parents help them get everything back into order, handing the little ones the toys to put into the containers and working with them, rather than doing it all for them, so that the younger ones learn to pick up after themselves and to leave things as they found them.
Sorry To See Them Leave
When The Golden Family leaves–quietly, joyfully, and not so late that everyone is crabby, having stayed up way past their, and your, bedtime–their host’s home is pretty much picked up, so there is minimal mess for them to deal with. The Goldens remember everything that they brought with them, keeping it in a place by the door, where they will remember it. Both the parents and their children thank their hosts warmly.
When you have had the Golden Guest in your home, you feel blessed and wish to invite them again.