Thursday, June 14th
I had sent an open invitation to a large chunk of neighbors through the Nextdoor app as well as an open invitation for a bunch of folks in our church to come over for a simple and free meal. We were starting what we hope to be a regular rhythm of weekly community dinners.
4:45pm - I just finished up vacuuming around the house and my wife was putting the finishing touches on dinner. Our two kids were running around the house as if there wasn't a care in the world. We were all excited to see who would join us for dinner.
5:30pm - We made the invitation open so people can come in and out. 5pm to 8pm is what we told everyone. We didn't expect people to come that early but 30 minutes in and no knock on the door made me wonder if this was a good idea (yes, I doubted my idea just 30 minutes into the night, I can be that insecure at times).
5:45pm - The doorbell rang. I turned the corner to walk to the door and saw two silhouettes that I didn't recognize. I expected that we would have people we didn't know join us. What I didn't expect was the two gentlemen that ended up around our table that night.
5:55pm - Gogo and Bird. Those were the two names we were given for our new guests. Their stories were as unique as their names. Gogo has been living and sleeping on the corner of our street for the last two months. Byrd, who use to be homeless himself, was now living with someone down the street and makes a living, among other things, by playing the sax on street corners. They met just a few days ago and now we were all cozied up around our small dinner table like they were a part of our family.
6:55pm - An hour into our time together. Gogo was on the floor with our two kids playing as if he was their new best friend and Byrd was sharing some of how his past with drugs had messed up his life but he's been clean and changed after encountering Jesus. I was picking at the potato salad and looking around at the scene unfolding combing over the many thoughts and feelings that were rushing through my heart and mind.
8:30pm - Although it had only been a mere 3 hours, we felt like we had known Gogo and Byrd for years. The ease of conversation and connection was not expected. Sipping coffee and eating homemade cookies, we exchanged stories and listened as we headed into the night and bid them farewell until next week.
Gogo and Byrd walked through our door as two strangers.
They shared stories that were foreign to us.
Their experiences and circumstances were vastly different.
Their skin color was not like ours.
But none of that mattered.
Their economic situation didn't matter.
Their address didn't matter.
Their past didn't matter.
All that mattered was that they came in as strangers and left as neighbors and friends.
All that mattered was they got to taste a bit of the love of Jesus.
With no prerequisites and no demands.
No expectations for payback.
Just grace. Just mercy. Just kindness.
I learned that night a little more of what genuine hospitality looked like.
It isn't glamorous. It isn't instagrammable.
It doesn't fit into a box. It's not easily controlled.
It is messy. It is unexpected. It is uncomfortable at times.
It is defined more by love than anything else.
And it's so worth it.
Who can you open your home and dinner table to?
Who can you see move from strangers to neighbors?