Last fall I invited an older couple over to dinner as a way to thank them for the way they had been generous to my husband and I in several different ways. Their kids are grown, they volunteer in different ways in the community and they enjoy traveling. The woman is an incredible hostess. When committee meetings happen at her house you can always expect fresh brewed iced tea, a cheese plate and dessert.
I picked the perfect menu, set the table and only smoked up my house slightly before their arrival while searing chicken. They brought a bottle of wine and we spent a few hours around the table. We asked them a lot of questions about their lives. They shared great details about their struggles raising children and things they love to do. We were blessed by their openness and honesty. We were able to get to know them as individuals, not just people we see around from time to time. As our time came to a close they shared, “This was a great evening. We haven’t been invited over to a house for dinner in a while.”
This couple hadn’t been invited into another home in a while? This couple who serves, gives generously to others and has lived in the same community for the majority of their lives hadn’t been invited anywhere in a long time? I was shocked. Sure they get invitations to all sorts of fundraisers and events, but they don’t often get invited into homes? They seem to know so many people. They are always wonderful to be around. In that comment, I sensed a hint of their loneliness and a longing to be invited more often. If they are a little lonely, how many other people must be lonely too?
|Photo courtesy of Ali Smith|
What I realized that night is that community doesn’t just happen. Friendships don’t just magically form. Deep conversation doesn’t come along easily in a world of fundraisers and events. These things take effort. They take someone initiating and someone inviting. We may be surrounded by others all the time, but we can still be lonely.
It’s scary to extend an invitation to dinner to someone else. You put yourself in a vulnerable place because they could say no. You have to clean your house a little bit (or deal with the potential embarrassment of it not being clean). You have to buy groceries (or take-out). You have to try to not burn dinner (a very real struggle). If you barely know the other people, you can stress about if the conversation will be awkward, uncomfortable or if you’ll have nothing in common. There are a lot of risks.
But if we don’t start to take those risks, we’re in serious danger of being lonely and isolated forever. We’ll be around people but never be known by people. If we are all waiting on an invitation to be a part of community, we will all be stuck waiting forever.
I have decided that I’m not going to be someone who sits around waiting for an invitation; I’m going to be someone who makes sure that others are invited. My floors will probably be dirty. My cooking will be about average. But, I will serve dessert.
I’m going to fill the seats around my table on a regular basis. I’m going to ask people about their lives – what they’ve learned from their mistakes, what they’re dreaming about for their future and what they love most about their days now. There are lonely people out there who want to be known, but are too scared to take initiative themselves. I want them to know that friendship is worth the risk.
What holds you back from extending an invitation to others? Who can you invite to spend time around your table?
I'm Ali. My life is full of people, adventures, and misadventures. I'm passionate about running after Jesus with everything I've got, opening my home to other people and sharing life with others. I'm a mess the majority of the time. I share pieces of my life at http://www.alismithtx.com
Visit the introduction to the Koinonia series to know how you can write about community, participation, and fellowship.