About two months ago I had this outlandish idea. For my birthday, all I wanted to do was construct a big table, cook a bunch of food and combine all of my Bellingham friend groups.
Combining friend groups is tricky. Mixing and mingling between multiple groups of humans where, for the most part, you’re the only bridge.
Here in Bellingham I have those I’ve met at A Life and those I’ve met at the Y.
They are the both eclectic, diverse and weird groups of humans.
So, I found tables, asked people to bring chairs and (mostly) sparkly beverages. I bought 25 lbs of chicken. I borrowed crockpots and my neighbor’s kitchen space. My roommate decorated and I scrubbed our back porch with bleach.
And I cooked and chopped and sliced.
And then when people started showing up, I put them to work.
I wish I had taken a picture, but I will have to settle for a mental image. Friends, from two different parts of my life, shredding chicken, cutting watermelon, mixing coleslaw, hauling chairs, setting up tables, sprinkling confetti. Friends who have spent time in my house separately, grabbing cups out of the cupboard and ice out of the freezer and knowing where the forks live.
At about 7:35, when all the food was out, when everyone had a beverage and was laughing and talking, I paused.
See, I was celebrating my birthday. That’s true.
But really, I was celebrating my people. My community.
I wanted to build a table, so that my people could bring some chairs to it and we could laugh and talk and eat.
It wasn’t perfect.
Everyone I wanted to be there couldn’t.
But there was no shame.
My table, my heart and my life in that moment, was full.
The thing that I love about the people in my life, whether here, in Irvine, in Kingsburg, or scattered around the world is that when the time and the space happens where we can sit around a table it’s normally for one specific reason.
When I finally get to see people in my life that I never see, we don’t tend to jump straight into serious conversation. I spent an entire day sitting in silence with my friend Tiffany even though I hadn’t seen her for well over a year. She didn’t have the time to hang out and talk as she was studying for the GMAT, but I just wanted to be in her space.
Jess, my best friend of about twenty-eight years, and I, see each other so infrequently, but we always take time to laugh, reminisce and drink Dutch Brothers.
The crew of humans I will be seeing in about three weeks, I see most of them once a year. And we will spend a lot of our week at a table, eating bad camp food and being tired.
But we will show up and we will laugh. And celebrate. (And drink A LOT of coffee)
Community has become such a buzzword lately. It feels as if it’s binding. And serious.
But, it’s not.
There is a time and a place and a sacred circle.
But we need to make time, more time, to celebrate. The more we choose to celebrate, the more foundation we have to stand on for those more serious hard moments.
The more we celebrate, the better position we are in to grieve with and console.
The more we sit and celebrate, the more space we have in someone else’s life.
Community, establishing it, living in it, being a part of more then one, is gritty. Sometimes you only come to them once a year, sometimes once a week. Sometimes someone can’t come, but now, you just have an open seat.
I came to Bellingham to be a part of a church.
I got so many more people then I could have even fathomed.
When you make showing up your norm, when you meet people where they are, when you don’t shame the ones who aren’t capable of showing up, you clean out the clutter and you are left with celebration.
My birthday dinner taught me a lot of things: I am loved, I can cook for thirty people stateside, I am loved, I have hysterical friends, I am known and when you lead with celebration at the table, people will come to it.
Let’s build our lives on celebration and joy, so that when the dark and the hard and sad comes, we will have a foundation to sit with each other and the space to do so.