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Settling the Table for Soulful Hospitality

Joy Dickerson is Vice President of ICHRIE.

As I write this, I am fast forwarding to my New Year’s resolutions.  Do you make them?  Every year, I come up with one or two. Usually, my resolutions would make me “better”.  Several times, I have vowed to exercise, join a gym (which for those who know me, this is funny). Sometimes, I have resolved to eat healthier or work less. But by the end of January, my resolutions are often a distant memory. And even though I don’t  always stick to my resolutions every year,  I continue to make them because it allows me to recognize that  I definitely have things I should be doing “better” in my life, for a better life.

This year, after reading and now teaching from the Danny Meyer book, “Setting the Table,” my New Year’s resolution is to consciously practice hospitality every day—actually, to practice “soulful hospitality” every day. Meyer contends that creating the feeling of warmth, welcome, connectedness and comfort all around us is the essence of true hospitality; he believes it is paramount to both organizational and personal success. And, he further maintains that hospitality and service are not the same—service is something you do to or for someone, but hospitality is something you provide with someone. So, soulful hospitality is all about connecting with others, accommodating needs other than our own, and providing an infectious optimism and joy for the tasks and decisions of everyday life.   Maybe it begins with a simple kindness, for which you expect no reciprocation. Or maybe it starts with an authentic expression of gratitude. Or maybe it’s about truly listening to a student or a colleague or a significant other.  Or perhaps we choose to give someone the benefit of the doubt, even if we think they’re in the wrong.  As stand-alone deeds, these are examples of service; but when we can genuinely connect with an individual from these acts, we set the table for soulful hospitality.

As I have reflected on this notion of “soulful hospitality”, it occurs to me that it IS something that I can practice without giving up by the end of January!  It’s not hard, it doesn’t take a lot of extra energy, it costs nothing, it does not interrupt my daily routine, and it could have a positive impact on others. What it DOES take is self-awareness and a willingness to “reset” when negativity sets in.  

We’re all a part of this amazing hospitality profession, so it seems we should be pros at practicing meaningful, authentic hospitality on an everyday, every-hour basis.  But I have to say, it’s easy to forego (at least for me) when pressed for time and energy, or when emotions begin to run high.  As a group of hospitality professionals, I wonder if any of you might join me in this quest for soulful hospitality in 2020!  

As I consider our work together for ICHRIE, it seems we could accomplish so much if we work together in the spirit of true hospitality. Our Strategic Planning Committee is currently working together to re-evaluate our core values, mission, and vision. The core values and mission will provide the foundation for “who” we are, what our purpose is, and how we conduct ourselves and this organization. Further, the committee is developing a member survey, which will be sent to you by early February. We need you to participate!  Your voice is important!  The strength of our organization will depend on our interconnectedness. Feel free to contact me at joy.dickerson@culinary.edu with any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions.

Here’s to soulful hospitality in 2020! Best wishes for a very happy, healthy and productive new year!

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