Extend the Table. Extend the Love.

By Tekia Thompson, Ten Thousand Villages Overland Park KS. Tekia is wearing our Chambray Pants.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone. I’ve never been a big fan of the day but I appreciate the thought behind it. Showering those special ones in your life with love on a special day. I think about who we are as a community (locally and globally) and it’s safe to say we can certainly use some more love this year.

So how can we extend the love beyond Feb. 14? How can we take this day and spread it out over 365 days? For me it starts with a table. If you know me, you’ve heard me speak about the importance of a table. I have this belief that much of life happens around the table. Doesn’t matter the shape or size. Wobbly or sturdy.  I’m always thinking about who I am going to invite to or create space for at my table. You see, the beauty of the table is that you don’t just sit and eat. You experience life together. You laugh, you cry, you create, and make big decisions. So much happens at the table! And inviting someone to your table is beautiful example of extending the love. It shows them they matter and belong.Let’s be honest, we all want to belong right? At its very core, I believe the table represents an opportunity to deconstruct the individual silos and barriers we have built over the years that have hindered the progress of creating community and solidifying relationships. We as a people were not meant to thrive in silos alone, but in community. Yes, we all need our space from time to time but we also NEED each other. Especially now.

How can you extend the love and create space at your table, in person or virtually? Are you willing to go beyond close family and friends; people you’re most comfortable with, to invite the person that’s on the fringes? The outlier who just hasn’t quite found “their tribe”. The one who is struggling to find a place to belong. It doesn’t have to be a complete stranger. Perhaps it’s a coworker, new member of your church or the neighbor who hasn’t had a visitor since the first shutdown. Or perhaps it’s bigger. Maybe it’s someone of a different race, culture, or religion.

Here’s a personal example. We all have seen how the current pandemic has shined the spotlight even more so on racial injustice. I have personally seen numerous relationships fractured between people I know and some I kind of know. I wanted to be part of the healing. At first, I wasn’t sure how but then as my best friend and I were talking (she too is a black woman) we realized we could “extend our table” and invite people, specifically white people, into a safe space to have an honest talk about race. We posted on our personal social media platforms that we were willing to offer a safe space for our white friends and those we may not know that well to talk about the impact of systemic racism on our community overall as well as us as black women. The response was overwhelming. We thought we would have less than 10 people want to take us up on the offer. To our surprise we had more than 60 people reach out, some from as far as Seattle and Canada! We forged ahead, created a schedule, and called our chats “Colorful Conversations”. We found ourselves facilitating 14, two-hour virtual small group chats and two community sessions for local nonprofits over the span of two months. It wasn’t easy but we did it. We reached beyond ourselves and in the process found that we were able to demonstrate love, grace and compassion in a new and much unexpected way. It led to healing, which was our goal. Many who participated in each session did not know each other well and felt very disconnected. However, by the end those same people were exchanging numbers, emails and talking about future dates to connect. See, it’s not always about roses and chocolate. It’s about intention.

We have an opportunity to regroup. Are we going to be the people that only takes care of just our “own” or are we going to be defined as a community that takes care of EACH OTHER? Give it a go. Start slow. Try a virtual coffee chat. Get creative and set up a virtual progressive meal with people you may not know that well, but who you know could use the interaction. I know a virtual progressive meal sounds crazy, but it can be done! There’s a couple of ways to successfully pull this fun event off. Simply reach out to 4-5 folks and then:

  1. Set a date and choose a menu where everyone cooks the same thing. Hop online and then enjoy together virtually.
  2. Choose the menu and have each person make a part of the meal (enough for everyone in your group) and then do a porch drop off the night before or the morning of your event. Fire up your computer and then enjoy virtually together, or
  3. Choose your favorite restaurant (hopefully local) and you each order your meal to be delivered to your home around the same time. Sit back, relax, and build community.

There is no right or wrong way. Be inspired to make it your own. Or get bold and do something completely different such as starting a virtual discussion like Colorful Conversations. The opportunities are endless. The point is this. Take an intentional step. We can extend the love, by extending our table.


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