"Treat your family like friends, and your friends like family."
It was a simple idea, really, that Ina Garten shared in an interview years ago, but it was revolutionary for me. In the middle of a cooking magazine that makes you fat just reading it, Ina shared her way of life that has changed mine.
Her philosophy was exactly opposite from my understanding of relationships, and I was intrigued. As an adult, I could already see the pieces of this coming together. People tend to mirror your response to them: If you smile at strangers, they typically smile back, and when you flip them off...well. let's not find out how that one goes.
She went on to say, when guests come over, don't shoo them out of the kitchen, give them a job. Let them help! Put them to work and make them feel like they're part of your team. Letting guests pitch in? Allowing guests to peek behind the veil? Coming from a background where family relations were pretty on the outside but strained within, this was a radical idea to me.
But over the years, I've found she's so right, and her philosophy seems to work pretty much every time. People are thankful to find folks who are real and relatable, and when that's what you give, people relax and give the same thing back.
The photo above is from a recent dinner party, which I couldn't have pulled off without Ina's advice and my friend, Karen's, willingness to help. Guests arrived to a sink still full of dirty dishes and dined on the porch, overlooking my junk-filled barn. But Karen joined in just like family, making the appetizers, setting the table, and talking me down off all my ledges. Thanks to Ina, I was able to accept some help and realize how thankful I was to have Karen on my team. And my friends bonded next to the dish-filled sink, (much to my horror), but they didn't bat an eye.
And you know why? Because they knew they were being loved like family and cherished as friends. And being valued beats getting hung up on a sink full of dishes any day.