Katha is a member of our Turquoise Table community and recently reached out to us with a story we want to share with you. While there’s not a place for a picnic table where she lives in Germany, Katha is creating community right where she lives. We loved her heart for gathering so much, we sent her a turquoise tablecloth! There’s always a creative way to open up your life and home to others and live as Front Yard People. I hope you are encouraged by Katha’s story.
In my short twenty-eight years of life I’ve traveled the world quite a bit and spent some time in different cultures. The best thing about other countries are the people who invite you into their homes and lives to show you a few of their traditions. Traditions I can then take back to my own life and introduce others to them. When I lived in the States a friend invited me to spend Thanksgiving with her family. I got to experience a whole day of family fun in the mountains, great food and good conversations. A day to reflect, appreciate and give thanks. It was such a treat and blessing for me. So I took this tradition back home and introduced my family to it. Ever since then, they keep asking, “Can you please cook Thanksgiving dinner again?”
Last Thanksgiving was a little different. I had just moved to a new city and started a new job as a high school teacher. Well, perfect, I thought – let me invite a few new colleagues over for Thanksgiving dinner. That way, I can share a tradition and get to know them a little better. I talked to a few colleagues and somehow, more and more people heard about it and asked if they could come. Many of them are English teachers, who have never experienced Thanksgiving before. So we moved the dinner to the school cafeteria.
Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Germany, so we all had to work, but somehow everyone was really keen on joining me in the kitchen afterwards. The room was filled with people peeling potatoes, cutting vegetables or stirring the Cranberry Sauce. Dancing to country music, of course. While I looked after the turkey, people started telling me their life stories, how long they have been teaching and what their lives looked like.
Food unites people in the most unexpected places and ways.
After hours in the kitchen it was time to serve the food. I went into the cafeteria, which is normally a rather cold and sterile white room, but oh my – a creative colleague had transformed the space into a feast. The white lights were replaced with warm candles, the tables were covered with lovely flowers. Everything looked so inviting and ready for a great celebration.
Initially I had invited about five people, in the end we were about twenty-five. Colleagues who had worked late walked by and we invited them to join. People brought pies and salads and wine. The table was covered with delicious food of all colors. My heart was filled with gratitude as we sat down and shared this meal together.
After dinner I raised my glass and said, “Now that we have eaten, let me introduce you to one more Thanksgiving tradition. Why don’t we go around the table and share what we’ve been grateful for this year?” This was a risky move because in Germany it sometimes is considered rude to pose such a personal question and to ask people to reflect and open up. To give something of themselves.
So I sat there and hoped people wouldn’t kill me.
Someone broke the silence and started sharing how this year had brought her family closer together through an illness. Someone told us what they appreciated about the gift of life. And someone else expressed gratitude for the welcoming atmosphere of this community, which apparently had never happened before at this school. I could not believe what I was hearing.
Just like that, there was a depth and community. People went beyond my wildest hopes and expectations with their openness and honesty.
Traditions brought strangers together, and colleagues were becoming friends. The Lord was weaving invisible bonds of community between us all, and whether those at that table believed in God or not, they definitely felt something wonderful taking place. And all I could do was lean back in my chair, listen to the stories and rejoice in amazement.
People from all walks of life and faith gathering around it.
That’s all it takes to create community. That’s all it takes to open up a space for authenticity and intimacy. That’s all it takes to witness an ordinary miracle. Don’t ever underestimate the life changing power of fellowship around the table.