While I was waiting (and waiting) for UPS to show up with Winning Ways newsletters, I decided to tackle the grungy grout in my tiled entrance. I’m a bit of a fanatic about dirty grout after spending five years in a house with tiled floors in dusty Las Vegas.

(Bonus tip: To clean grout, make a paste of baking soda and peroxide and apply with a battery operated toothbrush. Let stand for a few minutes and mop up.)

As I was polishing, I got thinking about how important it is for me to have a home that welcomes me and others. In fact, one of the first purchases I made for my new condo was a welcome mat that’s covered with bright red and purple flowers.

Everytime I return home and see it, it makes me smile and silently affirm, “I welcome my good.”

It’s a stunning contrast to the doormat outside my downstairs neighbor’s home which declares, “Go Away.” I haven’t met the owner of that place, but I’ve tried to imagine why they choose to make that statement to passersby.

Perhaps it was a housewarming gift that was intended as a joke, I mused. Or maybe they are weary of chasing away paparazzi. Of course, there’s also the possibility that they’re truly anti-social and proud of it.

What kind of welcome mat are you putting out? The way you answer the phone, the ease of navigating your Web site, the speed with which you answer e-mail, the extra effort to right an error, all communicate Welcome or Go Away.

This morning my local public radio station had a lively conversation about annoying background music in stores. Caller after caller talked about being driven out of retail establishments by loud music.

You may have had the same experience.

One woman said she’d accompanied a friend to an emergency animal hospital on the night her friend’s cat had to be put to sleep. They arrived at the hospital and found the waiting room television running a raucous comedy program. “It seemed insensitive,” she said.

It’s easy when we’re busy or distracted to ignore small courtesies, but it’s worth the time and energy to consider how to be as welcoming as possible.

Think of it as regularly scrubbing the grout. Then top it off with the most cheerful welcome mat you can find because, whether we realize it or not, we’re all in the hospitality business.