A longer table
What happens when you build a longer table?
When the table gets longer, exposure to new thoughts and ideas begin to grow.
When the table gets longer, the feeling of being apart of something bigger becomes a reality and the feeling of being alone in the world starts to dissipate.
When the table gets longer, there is always more room for friendship.
When the table gets longer, we begin to understand that relationship transforms all of our lives.
When the table gets longer, we begin to understand that grace isn’t just something you say before a meal, but a way of living life together.
We launched 12 new tables in the second half of 2016 and all of 2017. There were 5 tables that had begun in the two years earlier. We have a total of 17 tables and some of the young people have children. In fact, there are 19 offspring represented. As we started to think about numbers, we realized that much of the work of Open Table is around helping support young parents/families. Young moms and dads that didn’t grow up with role models that provided them with consistent support and security.
When our 17th table got together at Mexican spot to eat some tacos and meet one another, the group is made up of neighbors and teachers and a student. Not everyone could make it so we decided that it would be an informal gathering, but they were SO excited to meet their new young friend, that they didn’t want to wait until January. They wanted her to know that they were excited to meet her and to begin becoming her friends. So, we met and had a loud, laughter-filled discussion about our lives. They shared stories about their hobbies and their jobs and their families. Then, another table member showed up after we had come around the table, and we added chairs around the table. We squeezed in closer together. We made room. It was important to make space for our friends to join us. It was a great and casual beginning, and the fact that they made time to do it 4 days before Christmas communicated that this young person was important to them and they were excited to meet her and to welcome her into their lives. They made time for what was important to them, or better stated, for WHO was important to them.
We recently had a volunteer appreciation dinner and we brought together most of the tables. At the end of the night, anyone who wanted to share was invited to stand and give thanks. Our young friends and our slightly older friends shared with one another how their lives were being transformed.
Listening to the stories, I realized that one the biggest tasks of these tables is to hold a space for the stories of their young friends. They often have few people to really listen to them. Having 6-8 people around a table each week for an hour to just share what was happening to them, to just have people in their lives consistently was really important to our young friends.
One young mom said this:
“I hold a lot of thoughts in and I know that once a week, I can go sit with these people, who are my family and I can let it all out. And I can go with a whole new mindset and be ready for a whole new week, because I have positive people.”
Another young lady posted a few weeks ago to the Cleveland Open Table Facebook page:
“Being a part of open table has been a great experience for me thus far coming from a background where you have no one to look out for you. no one To care if you are OK or even just still alive. Let alone someone you can call and just to talk. My life has been Stressful I’m used to being the only one figuring out everything by myself for myself and my children. I got my table at the perfect time at my worst time. my table has show me that there are people “complete strangers” in fact that are willing to take you on as their own. Willing to show you a love that you may have never know. It takes a village of love, support, Positive reinforcement, and commitment to get anyone through. The open table concept has changed my life and my heart. I am no longer fighting this battle we call life alone. I am truly grateful for the ladies on my table.”