Written by Brennon Bloemendaal
What comes to mind when you think of the dinner table? Does it carry memories, emotions, holidays, discussions, family, friends, community? For some, it may not carry fond memories; it may carry hard moments, moments of loss, loneliness, and moments we would soon like to forget. But for all of us, the table carries meaning. It is a place that becomes part of us. A place that holds our stories and transports them to those who share the table.
For many, the table is a place of safety and comfort. A place where family and friends convene to share a meal and converse about the day’s happenings. For others, the table is wide and wild, open to anyone who embraces the unpredictability.
Who is sitting at your table?
The past few years have changed the landscape of what community and even family mean. Many of us have become deeply divided over our beliefs, values, and political affiliations. We have become transfixed on our ideals and making sure we stand by them above all else. But at what cost? Have our tables become smaller and more narrow? Are the seats only reserved for those who share our ideals?
When our tables begin to feel more like private booths, perhaps it’s time to start flipping them and turning back to what we may have once known. It’s time to open our homes and hearts to our neighbors and sit at the table together again…to see our shared humanity and choose love over ideals. I have learned this lesson recently through the passing of a family member. These last few years have driven a line between our family based on our different values. But death always has a way of teaching us just how fragile and short our time really is and that the things we are holding on to are not worth time or relationships lost. What binds us is and always will be stronger than what divides us.
At Help One Now, one of our beloved local partners, Pastor John Chinyowa in Zimbabwe, has given us the mantra that our greatest gift is one another. We have absorbed and internalized this mantra over the years and chosen to live by it as individuals and as an organization. To put it simply, we value a wide table. We believe that people from all walks of life can come together to make a difference. Poverty and injustice do not discriminate. They do not care what ideals or values or beliefs one has. They strike the best of us – our brothers and sisters around the world who may be guilty of nothing but where they were born. So, our work, too, should not discriminate.
Are we called first to follow a certain creed or set of political values, or are we first called to love? The work of empowering families to lift themselves out of poverty and the systems that work against them is not exclusive to one group. It is the duty and right of all to care for our neighbors around the world, especially those of us who have been given the privilege of not being born into those systems.
As I write this, I am reminded of Jesus’s parable about the dinner party. In the story, the host sends out invitations to his most elite friends and acquaintances, but they all decline. He then implores his servant to go to every street corner and alleyway and invite everyone he can find. He says to bring the outcast and the poorest of the poor, those who certainly would not normally be at these sorts of parties. He came to the realization that his table was too small, and the people he wanted at the seats didn’t really understand what he was going for. So he widened his table and realized that all he needed to have a feast was people who were ready and willing to join him and one another.
So, I ask again, who is sitting at your table? Or, who should be sitting at your table?
Can we put aside our differences and come together under the shared belief that our greatest gift truly is one another? Can we agree that when we put our collective humanity, resources and passions to work, we can actually change the world together? I believe it is possible, and I know that deep down, you do too.
We at Help One Now are taking this season to celebrate our ability to come Together Again. We know life looks different now, but we want to lean in more than ever to see our need for one another and what we can accomplish together. We want to set a wide table and invite all who will accept the invitation. We want you to join us in this effort, to see your neighbor and ask them to the table as we work together to build a more beautiful world.