One of my dearest friends had a birthday one week ago today, so in honor of her I’m writing about the concept of effortless hospitality.

Many of you read those words and immediately think of a Food Network-esque kitchen, with many friends gathered around eating very small foods off very fancy plates. Or, you might think of a handsome outdoor kitchen situated near a pool and every chair filled.

When I think of hospitality, it runs a little deeper than that (and not just because I like bigger food on cheaper plates).

Hospitality is not simply being willing and able to host a party in your home; it is a mindset you carry with you, even as you leave your front door. Savannah Kirkpatrick embodies that to a tee.

My friend Savannah would likely never describe herself as someone with great hospitality, but everyone who knows her can see it. Savannah and I have known each other for about eight years now, and her sense of caring for others and meeting their needs has deepened and strengthened with time.

We were friends in college, serving together at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Southeastern. After we graduated, I went on to teach and then move to Atlanta as a missionary, while Savannah actually was in the job I have now working with college students.

When I came to BCM as a staff member in 2019, I had big shoes to fill. She had touched the lives of so many students and made a lasting impact on the ministry being done here. Her effortless hospitality taught me so much about how to do my job.

Savannah also showed me hospitality in tough times of my personal life. We grew incredibly close after a big break-up I experienced just after college and even closer when I moved away to Atlanta.

She was an intentional friend, who would invite me to hang out or FaceTime me to catch up. No matter what was going on in our lives, I remember vividly how welcome I was in her life and in her house.

I’d come over, plop myself down on the couch with whatever box of cereal I found in her pantry, and we’d cry or laugh or just talk. Neither Savannah (nor myself) had much, and there wasn’t a red carpet rolled out for me when I came over. But she gave what she had.

When I moved away from Hammond and would come into town to visit, Savannah always welcomed me to stay on her trundle bed, giving us that special “middle school sleepover” bond.

She had one bath towel, so if I needed one for myself during a visit I’d just use her beach towel. Breakfast was usually black coffee and peanut butter toast or a granola bar.

To tell you the truth, I loved every moment of it. It didn’t matter. I felt welcomed because of Savannah.

Now we’re a little older, and life has changed tremendously: I am moved back and married, and Savannah is getting married this December. In the changes our friendship has only strengthened, often attested to her effortless hospitality.

I have learned so much from our friendship about opening my home up to others, as well as my life. May we all learn from the hospitable people in our lives, who welcome us into whatever their own lives hold.

And Happy Birthday, Savannah!

Emily Lay works at Southeastern’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry and lives in Hammond.

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