White walls and a 80s multicolored afghan were all that greeted me in my new bedroom offered to me by virtual strangers. It had been two months since my parents had kicked me out of their home, leaving me stranded with nothing but a bunch of trash bags filled with my childhood stuffed animals and the fifty dollar check I had gotten from my job I worked at once a week.
I was depressed and distraught, but I was not alone.
After hearing of my plight, a couple from my church offered for me to live with them for free in exchange for watching their children. I walked down the blue carpet lined staircase until I reached the aroma of freshly made breakfast in the dining room. On the shiny brown wooden table sat a bowl with steaming hot biscuits. Soon my friend from church came out of the kitchen, her hands full with two bone white plates filled with fluffy scrambled eggs. “Come on, sit down,” Laura said with a smile, pulling out a chair to her table.
The situation for me was extremely awkward. Growing up, we never had people over our house. But on Sunday nights, I would walk next door to my Nana’s house where she would make Sunday night dinner for my family and I. I would help set the table while Nana worked, mashing potatoes by hand or adding carrots to the pot roast she made in the oven. After dinner, when everyone left, I’d help my Nana dry the dishes, wiping each piece of silverware with care and placing it in her silverware drawer next to the sink, careful to make sure her antique pieces were safe and sound. Every now and again when her back was turned, I’d look at my reflection in those newly washed pieces making funny faces at the person staring back at me.
Hospitality to me meant sharing a meal with family, the people who had a hand in watching me grow up. But now, sitting at a stranger’s table was a painful reminder of all I had lost. Becoming a born again Christian at the age of eighteen became a source of contention and strife between my family and I, culminating in their declaration I was no longer a part of their family before throwing me out.
But that morning, I gained a new family. When Laura pushed out her dining room chair in a gesture of hospitality, she was extending me a chance to become a part of their family. Her husband and two children treated me not as a boarder, but as a sister, filling my belly with physical food and my soul with kindness and an invitation to know my Savior a little bit better.
Pushing a chair and offering a friend a seat at your table doesn’t just fill your stomach, it fills your soul, too. Whether it’s devouring a large pizza over TV or getting out the fine china and linen napkins for a fancy home cooked meal, both provide the gateway for friends to become family.