By Barb Arland-Fye
Guests were coming for dinner following Saturday night Mass and my son Colin’s excitement level soared because such events are out of the ordinary in our household. Any change in routine causes excitement for this young man with autism, but this change was over the top!
Ed and Joanne, friends from our parish wanted to see photos from my trip to India earlier this year, so I decided to invite them to dinner and to view the photos afterward. The invitation fulfilled a promise I made earlier this summer to Michael Havercamp, co-chair of the Vision 20/20 Convocation. He and his wife, Tasha, who serve as directors of Evangelization and Mission for St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, regularly invite people to their home for dinner and faith-sharing.
My husband Steve does the cooking at our house but, having extended the invitation, I promised to prepare the meal — a big step outside of my comfort zone. Steve didn’t say a word until the day before the big event, as I fretted about my limited cooking skills. Everything’s taken care of, he said. Salmon, chicken and vegetables for steaming had been purchased. He would do the cooking.
Throughout the week, Colin, who lives in an apartment with some assistance, checked to see if Ed and Joanne were still coming for dinner after Mass at Our Lady of the River Church in LeClaire. Yes, we assured him.
Just before Mass started, Colin sat next to me in the “Fye pew” and asked, again, if Ed and Joanne were coming to dinner. I answered affirmatively, to which he responded in a whisper loud enough for everyone around us to hear, “Remember, we don’t talk about politics!” Colin communicates without any filters, freely speaking what’s on his mind. We have tried to instruct him in the basic rules of hospitality and etiquette but the message apparently gets blocked somewhere in his busy mind.
When Ed and Joanne arrived at the house, Colin quickly walked downstairs to welcome them. I overheard him say, “You need to take off your shoes before you go upstairs.” I cringed. That house rule is specifically targeted toward Colin, who never notices when he tracks dirt or mud into the house. Ed and Joanne took Colin’s instruction with good humor as they walked shoeless upstairs into our kitchen.
Dinner and conversation went well and then Colin announced that it was time to watch “Perry Mason,” another Saturday night ritual in the Fye household, unless we’ve negotiated other plans in advance. Fortunately, he didn’t object as we attempted to show photos on the large-screen TV. It didn’t work, so we viewed photos on our desktop computer while Colin watched Perry Mason and thumbed through his Bibles and atlases. That’s one way he socializes, being in a room with other people who are enjoying one another’s company while he reads in his chair. For him, hospitality is all about presence, literally.
Our younger son Patrick joined our gathering later, capping an enjoyable evening that encouraged me to invite other people to dinner, even some I don’t know so well, to break bread, share stories and to allow the seeds of hospitality to grow.
Inviting people to dinner still takes me a bit outside of my comfort zone because hospitality is a gift I see in others and not so much in myself. But I’m hoping the effort will also set an example for Colin to enter our story of hospitality more fully — without his atlases, Perry Mason or politics.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)