With six kids, we’re often in a place where we’ve needed to add another seat to the table. Friends would get invited last minute. People would still be around at meal time. John and I learned early that it didn’t matter what we served if we served it with kindness and an attitude of joy.
Holidays have reflected that in a lot of ways. One Thanksgiving I’d invited a gentleman I’d met at a coffee shop who was there consistently. I used that particular place as an offsite office–people relax more with a cup of coffee in a neutral space.
He was an older man of color, always alone. I’d speak to him when I saw him, greeted him like an old friend. I thought it would be sweet to invite him to have Thanksgiving dinner with us and our friends, so I did.
He showed up.
He knew no one else at our place but me. He seemed to have a great time.
What he taught me was the value of being seen, being included.
There’s nothing like hospitality to make someone feel welcomed. Being at the table with others gives folks a sense of belonging, of being known and wanted. Ad campaigns have picked up on the value of being united–even in our diversity.
Aren’t we all truly different? Different stories, different values, different hopes and dreams. We’ve all got limitations–some are more obvious than others. We’re all hiding something we don’t want to deal with. We all wish some things about us were different.
There’s uniqueness in each of us–and real beauty. Different isn’t bad. It’s just different.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is more than just recognizing the contributions of a man who died fighting for his dream of equality among all people, no matter the color of their skin. He brought to the forefront social justice and the need to live in peace and love.
It’s been fifty years since he was assassinated, and our world still struggles with the challenge of viewing all as equal. Recognizing that our color, the family we’re born into, our gender, where we live aren’t decisions we’ve been given to make. The’ve been made for us–by an Almighty God.
If we’ve had no choice in these things, how dare we judge the value of another based on anything external.
In 1963, King made the statement, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
He understood the value of the individual because he understood the heart of God. We’re all made in His image. No matter what our color, gender, socio-economic status, talents. God has given each of us the capacity to live with Him–and with each other.
If we choose.
If we’re going to invite people to sit at the table to reflect our differences, we’ll all have to be invited. Not just a representative few. When we recognize we’re all different, we can begin to focus on what we share that’s the same.
It will be a mighty big table.