We’re driving home after a weekend visiting friends. After a long lunch with our friend talking about everything wrong and right with the world, my brain feels like it’s running on a hamster wheel.
Before lunch we had stumbled upon a Hindu Temple right in the area, so I assumed there was a large community of Indians there. Yet our friend had never been in the home of any local Indians, or had one over to his home. In fact, since returning to the US I have noticed how many of my friends have internationals living in their area, yet they’re not sure how to move beyond a wave and “hello”.
This is such a contrast to my experiences living in India, where the locals showed us—the foreigners—such warmth and hospitality. It actually disturbs me. I’m driven to locate some Indians in my city and have them in my home, and since I’m new I don’t know any yet!
I believe that Indians in America deserve to be welcomed, included, and hosted—just as their families have done for my family when we were visitors!
It also strikes me that many of my American friends are kind, welcoming, and good at making friends. I know many would welcome the opportunity to welcome internationals in and show them hospitality.
Yet for many of my genuinely kind, loving fellow Americans, there seems to be this giant, invisible chasm between us and the Asian Indians who move into our neighborhoods—especially if these Indians are from a different religious background.
This chasm is a broken-down bridge between “Friendly” and “Welcome”.
“Welcome”. The phrase we say (ideally with a big smile) when we hold out a hand and invite someone into our home. There’s a big difference between Friendly and Welcome.
Both my grandmothers were incredibly welcoming in different ways. My Gramma Eleanor welcomed guests into her living room off the front stoop in her organized home, where Grandpa always sat waiting in his easy chair with a smile and a handshake. They fed many a guest at their small kitchen table in the DC suburbs.
My Momo Grant welcomed in typical Southern style; the crowds were large and loud; with worn apron smattered with biscuit dough and bacon grease around her waist, calling out from the kitchen with her long-handled spoon stirring the huge pot. Her kitchen was crowded and disorganized, but the “welcome” was just as warm and good as Gramma’s.
Today we seem to have lost the art of the American “welcome”, both with fellow Americans and internationals. I think that Pinterest raised the bar on “hosting” to such a daunting level that no woman in her right mind wants anyone to come into her house. There’s so much pressure! Is it picture-worthy and immaculate? Does it look like my kids don’t live here? Did the meal meet the dietary requirements of each guest??
I used to joke with my friends that I had “hosting anxiety”, and now I realize that it’s actually a thing, and I really do have it! Inflated memories of Mom’s hosting, plus Pinterest, eventually incapacitated me from inviting anyone over.
Well, I conquered this fear of hosting out of necessity—by deciding two things:
First, that my desire to host people was greater than my fear of panic. Anxiety would not rule my decisions. (I may break into a sweat and have shaking hands while friends sit waiting in the living room and I make tea. But I’m going to do it anyway!)
Second, I decided that my kitchen would no longer be mine. It would be all of ours. If a group of guests came over, then whoever was willing would help me make, serve, or clean up. Friends knew that I was happy to throw the party, but they couldn’t just come and watch me. They needed to jump in and help.
Once I’d been doing this for about a year, I had so many friends love to come over and cook. One night we had a giant “Momo” Party (a Tibetan dumpling), led by our friend Sheru, and I didn’t touch a utensil all night. I ran after my kids. I chatted with guests. I checked on Sheru who was cooking. But I never worried about the food. There were 30 people in my 700 sq ft home making, serving and eating momos, and no one noticed that the hostess didn’t cook.
I have been so very blessed since I decided to get over my fear of hosting and open up my home! I long for this joy for all of my friends!
But let’s get back to the topic of showing hospitality to internationals.
I believe that we don’t reach out to say and to show “welcome” to internationals because we don’t know where to start.
We don’t even know if they want us to invite them over.
My concern is that many of us want to visit the world, but forget to make “the world” welcome in our homes. They won’t just come over, you know.
SO… my goal is to begin a series of blogs that helps us as Americans begin to understand the Indian (specifically Northern Indians) among us. I’ll start with the little I know about Indians from 7 years living in their nation. And perhaps that can get us all comfortable—and even inspired—to welcome someone from India into our home!!
Not that they need us… but I promise you– we need them!