I rarely share about my singleness, mostly because I’m tired of hearing friends and family tell me to be content, or God blessed me with a single life, or that He’s preparing someone special for me. All nice things to say, I suppose, but not to hear year after year after year. I’m very content with my life and living my single years to their fullest – but someday, if a foxy Jesus-loving gentlemen happens to waltz across my path, I surely won’t ignore him – I might just waltz right after him.
Anyway, a week ago, or so, I read The Life-Changing Power of Table featured on Boundless by writer Suzanne Hadley Gosselin, which was based on The Power of a Dinner Table by David Brooks of the New York Times. While perusing through both articles, I realized I needed to write my own version, as it brought up many thoughts of things I wished would be, and many great memories that were.
. . .
I spent two and a half amazing, and challenging, years living in an intentional Christian community in the rural hills of Kentucky. When people ask me about my experience, one of my favorite memories to share is how much we bonded at our supper tables. A factor of the “intentional” community meant one of us [our communities varied in size, generally from 6-12 volunteers] would cook supper and lead a devotion. We were strongly encouraged to trade off for four of the seven nights each week. Each of my communities would do intentional dinners Monday through Thursday nights, and then usually have breakfasts together on the weekends, and “spontaneous” homemade pizza nights on Sundays.
We had a variety of flavors from spaghetti to stir-fry to sweet potato tacos, depending on each member’s culinary skill-set. I found my inner chef in those communities and realizing I had the perfect audience to try new dishes, got pretty extravagant in my meals, which my housemates thoroughly enjoyed. Post-meal devotions ranged from meditations to Scripture-reading to creative activities. We all came from different Christian backgrounds and welcomed the growth experienced through sharing our own beliefs, while openly listening to others (even, and especially, when they differed from our own).
At the beginning of a volunteer term (many of us would volunteer for at least one year) in the fall, dinners would be pretty mild. We would share about our volunteer experiences, as many of us served 40-hour weeks in separate programs. The housing folks would talk about the home-repairs or what their grateful participants cooked them for lunch. The elderly caseworkers would share stories of awe and inspiration, and most likely some stories of hilarity while “partying with the olds”. The camp folks would share what they were teaching the children at school, and we might pray for a child who shared too much about the struggles of their home life. Our emergency-assistance person would help us realize how blessed we are to having running water and heat in our home.
Throughout time conversations would flow from work life, to our own personal families, to sharing our testimonies, struggles and losses. I have a few memories etched in that were moments of depth of love, sitting round our table, not even eating, but sharing. We’d gather together as someone lost a loved one back home. We’d surround them with hugs, hot chocolate or tea, and an open space to share stories or even silence.
The table was expanded during Thanksgiving to fit as many volunteers as it could, and squished together we all shared dishes we would previously experience at home with our families. We would pray and go around the table and share what we were thankful for. And then we would enjoy an abundant meal and fill the room with joy and laughter.
If tables could tell stories, just think of what they’d share. Our table in those communities would have many ‘a’ tales to tell. It would share stories of the hard work we put in, our compassion and care for our participants, the gratitude for the way we were raised, and the family we loved – whether or not they supported our decision to be there. The table would smile through all the laughter and silliness. The endless nights of exhaustion in which we would stay up much too late, and say the darnest things that would become inside jokes to last through the ages. It would remember the feeling of dice rolled, cards dealt and the rhythms of other games played on its surface. It would share of the whispered stories – the ones that broke us out of our shells and freed us from chains that tried to hold us down. They would have always known who liked who, before any of us had a clue, and would had seen many epic romances blossom and bloom. Soaked into the fabric of the table, into the depths of the wood would be salty tears, delicious remnants of meals, coffee stains and the fingerprints of many great people who would go on to do great things, because of the stories they shared and the heroes they hoped to become while gathered around that table.
. . .
I gotta tell ya, I miss that table, and those people that sat around it. Approaching December, it’s nearly been three years since I departed my Christian community. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday, and other times a distant memory. For my first year out, I lived with a roommate – one of my housemates for two years in our intentional community. We tried to do dinners together at least once a week, though our differing work schedules made it difficult.
I think my one complaint about being a single adult is not being invited to meals. I’ve attended a couple different churches throughout time and the focus tends to be on the poor college students (which still is a good cause!) but what about the poor single adults who live alone and need fellowship? There have been bright lights in the darkness, like meals shared before Bible studies, or being treated to lunch by a couple after church, but those are the rarities. I still try to get together with my housemate-friend once per week, and we trade off cooking for each other (like the good ole days!) which are definitely highlights to my week. Otherwise I find myself watching TV while eating, hoping to gain some wisdom and humor from my TV-friends. I find they are great talkers… but not so much, great listeners.
. . .
Growing up, I was blessed to have a family that ate together. Mom always welcomed in our friends who lived near and far – and provided great meals and snacks for our slumber parties. During holidays and special events we expanded as we invited in our extended family members and friends. There was always a plethora of food, joy and love to share. Our table knew of laughter, games, potlucks and parties. It knows the stories of our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It’s held up plates of bonattas, cottage cheese dip, grandma’s mac and cheese, Christmas steaks, Eileen’s cakes, and all the Thanksgiving fixings. It’s heard the concerts that my brother and I would put on for my mother’s Christmas gift… my brother’s melodious accompaniment to my monotonous singing (poor, poor table). It also contained moments of sadness, as friends brought over sympathy food when we lost grandparents and family friends. It soaked in the dampness of tears, while welcoming the warmth of hugs and friends drawing near. Underneath it would lie an unconditionally-loving, and beloved mutt ready to sweep up the sadness and scraps left below, barking and jumping and helping us grow.
But if you sat down and had a chat, with our dear old table, it would have mostly shared of a mother that deeply cared, a family that shared and two children that were ever so prepared – for all that life would throw their way, because of the time spent around that table.
. . .
Through the past couple years, I’ve enjoyed my independence of being able to fully provide for myself – as well as have a space of my own to decorate. Though my table has been more of a prop, than that story-soaker. It’s hosted a few meals with friends, a couple with family and one truly happy Halloween party. If it could talk, it might be as disappointed as I sometimes am, missing out on the fellowship that used to be. But we will cherish this season of quiet preparation, for it won’t be forever… I’m hoping that my next chapter in life will include roommates, or at least a community of a few+ ladies and gents who want to share meals together. (I’ll cook, as long as y’all bring some wit, charm and stories to share. 🙂 )
If the tables in my life could say anything at all, they’d mention the times when friends came to call… the adventures we shared, the moments we cared… the lives we lived, and the fellowship we did. They would soak in the times of memories and tears, but in the present they’d celebrate with cheers!
So now as you go, think of what might be… If you table could talk to you…
What would it share? What would you see?