By Taylor Lampe
On the first day of our program, I found myself sitting around a kitchen table with a group of strangers. We made polite conversation and pretended like it wasn’t awkward and I ate a whole bowl of grapes.
Fast forward two months, and that same group of no-longer-strangers is having dinner around that same table. A good portion of the meal is spent passionately debating whether or not a roommate’s words about women are sexist. We also assign cooking duties, pray together, talk about work, and attempt to understand our insurance policy. This time, I eat a whole bowl of chili. Welcome to intentional living.
The kitchen table that appears in both memories was discovered last summer on the side of the road. Rev. Bryant decided to rescue it and her husband sanded and stained it back to life. It was restored and has become an important part of our community (mostly because of its central location and generous size). When we have conversations, we like to say that “everything is on the table”. For meals, prayers, and house meetings, we often “gather around the table” to be in community together.
Already, when I look at our kitchen table, I am filled with emotions and memories (what can I say… I’m a sap). I remember when our Canadian roommate referred to gutters as “eves troughs”, the first time someone cried in front of the community (me), when we needed shots of whiskey, delicious jambalaya and corn bread for dinner, and that one time when we had to say goodbye. I remember prayers, hugs, birthdays, silences, chores, laughter, apologies, debates, and meals.
To some people, places are just places. But for me, places have always been powerful links to memories. They are vessels for happenings, both mundane and substantial. They are guardians and safe-keepers of times perhaps long forgotten and never to be again. This table, this place, is important.
One of Jesus’s most profound practices was his gathering of people around a table. When he invited the outcasts of society to dine with him, he made a statement about our inherent individual worth and our shared humanity.
Our community time around the table is also profound, in its own way. We set aside two hours, three nights a week, to be together for meals. We have committed ourselves in time and spirit to something larger, to a collective good, even when it’s hard and challenging. When we gather together, we are people of many differences. But around this table, we acknowledge our shared humanity and learn from each other in deep and meaningful ways.
When I look around the table at my friends, housemates and community members, I sense the restoration on their faces. I sense the work-in-progress towards some sort of greater good. This community is doing sometime in our lives, our relationships, our daily work, and I believe, the world. And what better place to gather for restoration than around a table that has itself been restored.