The Dinner Table
Fran and I had lived in a GORGEOUS house in a suburb of Cape Town. We had a miracle of a steal on rent. The reason for this insanely nice deal was 1. Jesus and 2. Richard.
Richard was the owner of the house's son, and our little Rondebosch abode was given to him to manage as a means of earning spending money while he was in school instead of his parents funding his drinking habit. Luckily for us, Richard was far more interested in smoking pot and singing Mumford & Sons to do any market research to find out what he should actually be charging us and our other roommates. We each had our own bedroom, a big bathroom, a pool, large, modern appliances, flatscreen TVs, cable, electricity, wifi and a maid (seriously it was a hookup).
Eventually, Richard's parents realized that he was not being responsible and decided to remodel the whole house (like it needed it) and sell it to a new family. It's true, all good things do come to an end...and now we were homeless.
We looked at twenty houses (not an exaggeration) and eventually connected with Lean (pronounced Lee-ahhhhn) who needed two roommates for her flat. It was beautiful: hardwood floors, flat screen TV, wrap around kitchen (I was sold immediately), big bedrooms, and fully furnished -- well almost. It needed a table.
There isn't IKEA in South Africa so we had to look in normal furniture stores and all of the options we found were both small and expensive. Left with no option my housemates and I did what every self-respecting African does - we spoke to people who know people. There was bargaining, a trip to the wrong side of town, a man with missing teeth, and a week later we were the owners of a custom made rustic 10-seater Oregon pine table. Or was it "OROGON PINE" like the misspelt sign said? Who knows? All we knew was that it was one thing: perfection. It completed life like a salty cracker a good hard cheese.
Initially I was mocked for requesting such a large table to put into an apartment. To be fair, we did have a lot of difficulty getting it through those doors, but nevertheless that was the best financial decision I ever made. It wasn't just a purchase, it was an investment.
One of the most impactful statements I've ever heard was from my friend Keilah in my first week in Africa. As we were all leaving church, there was a guy that most of us labeled as kind of awkward who was heading straight for his car while the rest of us were planning a trip out for burgs to celebrate another awesome Sunday in church. I could see her staring at him and heard her say quietly to herself "Never exclude, always include" as if she were giving herself a mini-pep talk and invited him out with us. I was deeply moved by that profound statement and her example, to and it became my motto as well.
If you pass by me in church or on my way to a meeting or try to talk to me before I've had at least two cups of coffee, I'm not always a nice person and I have trouble sticking to that kind of a mantra. If you find me in my kitchen cooking? That's when I'm the nicest. My table needed to be big enough so that I could "Never exclude, always include."
Just as my high heel etched the glowstick goo from a broken glow stick into the top of the table on my 21st birthday party (more to come on that in another post...maybe), that table has etched memories into my heart of countless Mexican nights with people from all sorts of crowds. Memories of squeezing 28 people into our apartment for Thanksgiving, and cooking for three days prior. Memories of sangria Saturdays which sometimes (oftentimes) came on Thursdays as well.
None of this would have happened if I hadn't adopted that mindset, and I honestly believe that it's a mindset that Jesus would have had. Jesus didn't invite everyone he met to be a part of his inner 12 group of homies and cronies, but you know what he did do? He'd eat with them.
Yet so often, so many of us don't. We isolate ourselves because there's less risk that way. We get into cliques with people who are so similar to ourselves that we never get pushed to change.
Not excluding people, inviting them into your world, means you have to let your walls down and be brave enough to accept it if they reject you. Usually people don't turn down Mexican food, but some do. Without rhyme or reason, they decide they don't like you or your enchiladas and they say no. That's scary. What's the alternative though? Eating all the burritos by yourself? That's sad and stupid and you're going to have a heart attack eventually. Stop. Invite people into your life.