For a long time, I’ve dreamed of gathering place. A place where people put down their phones and choose to talk instead of text, laugh together instead of LOL. A place where you don’t have to wonder if people LIKE what you just said, because you can see it in their eyes.
For a long time, I felt like that space had to be public space, like owning a library cafe or community center. I still dream of creating community in a third-space (not home, not work/school) but while I was dreaming of that, I heard about a wonderful person who had successfully created community right in her yard. And she inspired me so much that last year, I asked my brother-in-law to build 2 farmhouse tables (plans from Shanty2Chic) and slowly but surely, we began to intentionally invite and gather people in our front yard. But that was last year. And this year, I did more talking about having people over than actually having people over. I needed some inspiration and motivation.
When I heard, through Instagram, that the lady who inspired me would be hosting one of her Neighbor’s Table events, not in her backyard, but at West Elm, I quickly said #pickme. And to my surprise and delight, they reserved a space for me at the table. I figured it would be the perfect kick-off to the dinners-outdoors season.
Ever felt like you walked into one of your dreams? This was better than that…’cause weird things happen in dreams… This event was much more than I anticipated. The tablescape. The people. The stories.
I first heard of Sarah Harmeyer from this post by Shauna Neiquist… heck, when I first read the post, I didn’t even know who Shauna Neiquist was but quickly became a fan (friends say, an obsessed fan, but whatever).
I was so excited about getting to meet Sarah and watching her in her element, working her gift. And what a gift she has. She made me— and everyone in the room, no doubt— feel at home (yes, even in retail store) and welcomed. When you talk. her eyes, her body language say, “I’m interested.” She takes the time to know (and remember) a special something about everyone in the room and uses that information to introduces each person by name before dinner. Everyone feels “interesting.” And everyone has something to talk to a stranger about. Brilliant.
I got to chat with Sarah a little about the logistics of hosting … real dishes or paper & plastic? cook or potluck? She shared what she does and how her focus is on the people and not the stuff. Centerpiece or no centerpiece, Sarah mission is to love her neighbors around the table.
Sarah has encouraged me to quit feeling paralyzed with over-thinking and just start gathering people again. Trust God.
And speaking of God. Sarah is a believer and she naturally weaves this in to her conversations and her storytelling. So much to learn from her.
A couple of weeks ago, the If:table blog featured Sarah’s story (click it. read it!) and once again I felt that little nudge to “open” for the season.
Sarah, again, encouraged me to just do it… just gather people. It’s not about the food or the decor or anything else. Just bring people together. And I need to hear that. For whatever reason, I’m having a hard time getting jump-started this season. I’m full of excuses —my son’s t-ball schedule, the yard is a mess (due to construction, plumbing work, etc.) and now it’s getting hotter and hotter here in Texas. But there really is no excuse to put the pause button on community. Because life without community is no life at all.
So, who is coming over? Dinner. Let’s just do it!