August has always been a significant month in my life. I was born in August, married in August, had my first child in August, always started school in August, began law school in August, moved to New Jersey in August, began a new law school in August. Yes, August is, indeed, just that – “august” in my life.
A friend mentioned yesterday that she supposed I “pondered” a bit before I actually begin writing. (That was said at the church we’ve attended – since – you guessed it – August – 16 years ago) To say I ponder “a bit” is an understatement. I over-ponder. Sometimes I think I’d be much more productive without so much pondering.
Years ago, when I was a very young attorney, on days when there was a little “lag” time in the office, my boss – as he hurried by my office – would call to me to head out the door with him to whatever meeting he was scurrying to get to. I would grab a legal pad and my purse and scurry out with him.
One day we headed out to the country (we were in a fairly urban area in New Jersey) to visit an older client. She lived in a grand old house in the, then, more rural part of the state. The house, he explained, was almost 200 years old. Yet, despite the home’s age, each of its walls remained “square.” There were no cracks in the plaster, gaps in the windows, doors that wouldn’t close properly or sags in the ceiling. Though it had stood for two centuries, the house had been built so very well it still stood – “square” and strong and firm.
When the tornadoes ravaged parts of Kentucky and other areas in early December, I got online to donate some money to a few organizations in an attempt to quickly provide what little help and hope we could. As I clicked through, I kept thinking – “This is just a drop in the bucket. What real help could these little bits possibly be in the face of such mass devastation?”
Last year, in that year we will forever remember as the year of Covid -19, I turned 60 years old. As strange as that year was, this year – 2021, has not become much more normal. When I turned 60, for some reason, I couldn’t help but specifically reflect on the day I turned 30. And now, this month, in this continuing Covid-clouded year, my oldest daughter reaches that same age – 30. Because I remember the day I turned 30 so vividly, I can see in my mind’s eye myself at her exact age. That will certainly give rise to some pondering and reflecting.
Whew! What a year is behind us! A year of much loss. Loss of life – loss of health – loss of time with friends and family – loss of gathering to celebrate great achievements and major life events – loss of gathering to mourn and celebrate lives that were lost – loss of jobs – loss of a bit of independence – a certain loss of decorum and tact – loss of understanding – loss of many, many things we simply took for granted.
I was reminded early this morning, via a Facebook memory, of one of the sweet, simple things I simply took for granted prior to these past months. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, cherish it, relish it, prepare for and look forward to it – I guess I just naively assumed “it” would stop only when I did.
The “it?” – having the blessing and privilege of others gathered around our table.
And when I say I took it for granted – it was the pure ability to gather that I held so lightly. I have always thought anyone sitting around our table was a special person for a special place and time. Even if the day or meal itself didn’t hold any special significance – the fact there was food to eat, food for thought, food for conversation, food that created laughter, food that garnered memories, spiritual food and food that led to deeper friendships and relationships made it special. There was a magnificent significance, even in the insignificant.
So here we are, at the precipice of a new year. It’s a perfect time for a “table reset” if you will.
With all of the strife, loss, discord and division of the previous year – be it economic, spiritual, political, racial or any other “al” – your table is a wonderful place to begin bringing others together. It is a perfect place to rekindle lost friendships and relationships and heal wounds of hurt and cuts of separation and scars of disunity.
During much of the upheaval of 2020, I’ve thought about, and been especially grateful for the vastness and variety of those who have passed through our doors and sat around our table over the years.
We’ve had close friends whose place in our lives can never be exchanged or replicated. We’ve had many who are no longer walking or living among us. We’ve had persons from all walks of life, from all beliefs, from a great many places around the world, from practically every wonderful, diverse, interesting aspect of life.
While I set the table and prepared for them – it was that amazing mix of life experiences and melodious cacophony of differences that made every gathering special and memorable in its own way.
My children experienced sharing a table with those much like us and others that could be described as much different from us. Here’s the thing though, when your table is open and welcome to others who aren’t “just like you” – you seldom notice the differences at all. The differences just become part of the beautiful tapestry and place setting your table is presenting at any given time. A tapestry that weaves lives and experiences, conversations and “differences” into the very fabric of our lives.
Here’s a challenge – when we are finally able to gather at tables with others – hopefully sooner than later in 2021 – How are you going to “set” your table?
Possibly do a reset!
It doesn’t have to be fancy or pretentious. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.
And as you begin, think about setting your table a different, more inclusive way. It will possibly be challenging to have new and different people in your home, much less sitting around your table. It may be a bit unsettling to have differing opinions and beliefs and positions sharing the same meal.
There is a certain grace that settles over a gathering of mere humans sharing a meal, a discussion, a moment in time together around a table. Yes, we’ve had fireworks and tears and difference of opinion. But those have stretched us to a level of acceptance, understanding and “unconditionalness” – even wisdom – that may not have occurred otherwise.
So, here’s to 2021 and your beginning plans for a great reset around your table when things “normalize” in your neck of the woods.
Surely we can gather and regather and begin to regain some of what we lost in 2020.
Seek to make it your goal to make yours a table of grace in every way. We will all benefit from such a setting, or resetting, of grace.
Thought to Ponder: How can you “reset” your table to encourage others to join you in sharing a meal and meaningful conversation? What do you need to do? What could be your first step? Who do you need to include around your table to lead to a diversity of life and thought? Who needs to be invited to heal division and relationships? What grace needs to be invited to sit in one of your empty chairs? Do you pray first – for wisdom, guidance and the grace to pull people together? Go ahead – begin a reset!