A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to a book signing for Jane Green, a bestselling author who has released a new cookbook. The gathering was held at a beautiful old home in downtown Charleston, which was filled with an even more beautiful mix of people. We stood outside on the porch and talked about how it was still too hot to feel like fall and any other thing that makes conversation flow from one thing to the next. I had walked in feeling like a stranger to this crowd, and I left extending hugs, cheek kisses, and well wishes.
In the days since, the words from the author herself have stayed with me:
"I quickly realized that for me, having people over is less about the food, and more about comfort, warmth, nurture. It is about creating the kind of welcoming environment that instantly makes people feel relaxed and cared for, that truly brings meaning to the concept of food being love."
When she spoke those words, I felt them. Tears rose, right to the edge. Not only because I crave the kind of love that feels that way, but because I want to be the kind of person who gives it. She described how I want people to feel when they are in my presence, when they enter my home. It feels like a worthy goal, something to value.
I've also been thinking about the night two summers ago, when the Charleston cast of Listen To Your Mother came to my house for a post show celebration. This was another beautiful mix of people who had recently shared the experience of reading their powerful, personal stories on stage for an audience of a few hundred people. The show had brought us together and now we were sitting in my living room, on the couch, on the floor, on dining room chairs, on the ottoman. We talked, and we listened. We went deeper than what had already been bravely shared on the stage. We felt free to ask curious questions. Together—not from anything I had magically done on my own—we had created a safe place to ask the hard whys? and the hard hows? Why do you think that happened? How did you recover? There is so much power in the sharing, but also in the listening, the hearing. At some point I said, "I wish we were recording a documentary. I wish we could somehow bottle up this conversation and share it with the world."
Just last week, my friend Patrick Jager (actually he is my husband's friend and colleague but my kids and I latched on to him instantly when we met him in California back in June) wrote something that got my attention. Patrick wrote, "What we need is a place where all can hear each other and find ways that 'us' means 'all of us.'"
He also offered a challenge:
"Can you imagine if every Fortune 500 company, every media outlet, every church and synagogue, every scouting troop and every small town YMCA developed content that focuses on that which unites us? Ideas that feed the good among people to counter the polarization that continues to consume us?"
These vignettes have been swirling in my head, but I almost didn't write this post because I couldn't figure out how to tie it all together. How could I make this all fit in with Thanksgiving, a holiday that focuses on the powerful and holy act of coming to the table? Then I thought, maybe I don't have to try so hard, I don't have to force the connection. They stand alone, and they fit together. And I just love when that happens. I love that about words, about stories, about people, and about life.
Happy Thanksgiving Friends.
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