Give a Penny, Get a Penny

Hospitality lessons start at home. It doesn’t matter what kind of home you have because making others feel glad they stopped by is what hospitality is all about.

Cardboard mobile home.

Twelve-year-old boys teeter between playful imps and young men. It’s a fun thing to watch. One moment they are talking like young adults and the next they are rolling like puppies in the grass, climbing trees and hanging on rope swings.

Such was the way a few days ago when four neighborhood boys, including our son, built a house out of a cardboard box. (How ironic the box is from a Martha Stewart outdoor furniture set.)

Our son said, “Want to see our house?”

How could I resist? The house tour began.

The Outside

Removable flag

It looks cobbled together carelessly with its spray-painted graffiti style, but there was a plan. The word “EPIC” means awesome, I am told. The protruded box on top of the house is supposed to be gold but they ran out of paint. A flag flies and many of the fine points of the house are constructed from brightly-colored Duct tape.

The Inside

Our son explains: “Here’s a sliding roof that leads to a periscope-type lookout place. The drawings on the wall are ours and everyone who worked on the house has his name spray painted in it.”

“Up here (and he points to the place where you can look out the top), is the give a penny, get a penny place.” (And there were several coins on the cardboard ledge.)

I asked, “What’s that?

“You know, like at 7-11 and stores like that, they say ‘give a penny, get a penny’…like if you take a penny or a dime to round out your bill, you put one back the next time. But, it doesn’t always work, because some people take but don’t give anything back.”

I replied, “You mean some people are takers and not givers?”

“Yeah,” he said solemnly.

Hospitality is to give more than you expect to receive. It comes from the heart. Can my husband and I teach this to our son? Or does he come by it naturally? Nature or nurture?

I don’t know the answer. I just know that I’m documenting this day and this house. I want to see if my son grows up to be the kind of man his father is – one who takes a wedge of cheese, serves it on a plate with whatever he has on hand, and makes you feel like he was waiting just for you.

The spy lookout place.

Boys’ artwork adorn interior walls.

I heard the boys are now planning for the demolition of the house. The fun never ends!

Home builders’ signatures


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