In our twenties, my husband and I thought nothing of using garden furniture for indoor dining. The wrought iron chair with the crooked seat cushion scraped against the pine floor as my neighbor pulled it up beside the table and sat down. Theresa eased her pregnant body into the world’s most uncomfortable chair with a sigh, while I puttered in the kitchen, preparing our make-shift meal. My daughter kept Theresa company from her high chair, kicking her feet in staccato against the foot rest, which Theresa politely ignored.

I was an American trying to survive my first year living abroad in London, and Theresa and I shared paper-thin walls in a row of painted brick homes on Second Avenue. I was twenty-six with a child and questionable taste in furniture. She was older, brilliant, and a talented professional violinist. We’d met for tea a few times, and in a move entirely unlike myself, I’d asked Theresa to join me for a beginner’s Bible study. She had no religious background to speak of, but much to my surprise, she agreed.

On this particular afternoon she’d arrived tired, carrying the weight of a soon-to-arrive first child, and all the uncertainties of impending motherhood along with her. We read a short passage in Psalms from the comfort of the overstuffed sofas in the front room while my daughter played in the corner with fake fruit and plastic cups. I prayed, she listened, we chatted.

I watched the sky deepen from grey to black velvet through the windows behind Theresa, as my daughter’s tea-time approached. I’d adopted the British custom of feeding her kid-friendly food for “tea” around 5pm, and I waited until eight or nine to eat a proper meal with my husband when he arrived home in the late evening.

As the clock ticked and we chatted, I grew increasingly anxious as it became clear it would be rude to begin cooking without asking Theresa to stay for dinner. And when I say “cooking,” I mean defrosting. My husband was out for the evening, and all I had to offer was an emergency stash of peas, chicken nuggets, and French fries shoved into my tiny, European freezer. All kid friendly, all decidedly embarrassing to offer a new friend who had yet to find herself eating off plastic toddler plates and using ketchup as a major food group.

I secretly hoped she’d say no, but Theresa decided to stay even after I shared the less than sophisticated options on the evening’s menu. I put the kettle on and brewed strong, hot mugs of tea while the peas defrosted and the fries baked in the oven. We sat down together, three girls and one little boy on the way, and we ate a feast of toddler proportions.

Sitting in wonky garden chairs, chatting over limp fries, Theresa revealed she’d been too weary to plan her own dinner. My reluctant invitation had come as a gift. She was all hunger, with nothing at home to satisfy her. While my daughter threw peas on the floor, we talked about babies and work and life in London, and I realized I too had come to the table empty. We parted full—satisfied at having met each other’s hunger across mugs of tea and simple food.

Kimberly Coyle
Kimberly Coyle / Posts / Blog
Kimberly Coyle is a writer, mother, and gypsy at heart. She tells stories of everyday life and the search for belonging while raising a family and her faith at kimberlyanncoyle.com. She writes from the suburbs of New Jersey, where she is learning how to put down roots that stretch further than the nearest airport. Connect with her on Twitter @KimberlyACoyle or her FB page Kimberly Coyle .
  • Sarah

    What a lovely reminder of how simply extending an honest invitation can meet someone’s needs. 🙂

    February 24th, 2017 8:14
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    • Kimberly Coyle
      Kimberly Coyle
      http://www.kimberlyanncoyle.com/

      Thanks, Sarah. If only it were always this simple:)

      February 24th, 2017 11:46
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    • Coralie
      http://cznaghwg.com

      There were lots of suspects, from the doctor who was using dubious techniques to treat both girls, to the damage Iraq war vet who was dumped by his fiancee and never recovered, to the local property agent wh;218&#7os own girl took her life while in treatment with the same doctor.

      March 9th, 2017 0:27
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      03
  • Christie Purifoy

    I love this story. So simple, so powerful, so beautifully told. Thank you.

    February 24th, 2017 9:31
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    04
  • Denise Stair Armstrong
    http://Jamaicadawnwings.wordpress.com

    Reminded me of Christian teacher/ writer Karen Mains’ book ‘Open Heart, Open Home’. Thanks for the reminder Kimberly, that that’s what Jesus is all about, as we cooperate with His transforming work in and through us.
    Denise

    February 24th, 2017 9:54
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    • Kimberly Coyle
      Kimberly Coyle
      http://www.kimberlyanncoyle.com/

      I’ve never read Karen Mains–perhaps I should?! Thank you, Denise:)

      February 24th, 2017 11:48
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    • Lisa Metcalfe
      http://beautyforliving.blogspot.com

      Yes, Denise-It reminded me of that same ministry mentor! Excellent story, Kimberly ” )

      February 24th, 2017 20:06
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  • Jody Collins
    Jody Collins
    https://jodyleecollins.com/

    Oh, Kimberly, what a beautiful, encouraging story. When we offer our simple gifts we never know what kind of unspoken prayers we may be answering.

    February 24th, 2017 11:57
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    • Kimberly Coyle
      Kimberly Coyle
      http://www.kimberlyanncoyle.com/

      Thanks for reading, Jody:) I wish I could remember this on a daily basis. Too often, I complicate hospitality rather than keeping it simple.

      February 24th, 2017 12:06
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  • Elizabeth Wynne Marshall
    http://www.elizabethwmarshall.com

    Kimberly,

    I’m so excited you are in this community of women. You’re gift of storytelling shines through, the lustre a bright spot in a hurting world. You inspire me to seek out and serve using your own story as a template.What a rich lesson you impart with beautiful simplicity. Thank you for your words. They are life giving.

    February 24th, 2017 13:32
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    • Kimberly Coyle
      Kimberly Coyle
      http://www.kimberlyanncoyle.com/

      You are so kind, Elizabeth. Thank you! I’m thrilled to be a part of this community. Already, I feel it’s a gift, as are your words:)

      February 24th, 2017 13:38
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  • Theresa Boedeker
    http://TheresaBoedeker.com

    Your lovely story shows that it is the company that matters more than the food. Something I need to remember.

    February 24th, 2017 21:42
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  • Shelly Miller
    http://shellymillerwriter.com

    Kimberly, you described a typical London day so beautifully. I do think Brits are less fussy when it comes to domestic details. They know how to be present in a way that Americans struggle to find. Oh how I wish you were still here, would’ve loved to be at your table. Welcome to Grace Table!

    February 25th, 2017 3:22
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    • Kimberly Coyle
      Kimberly Coyle
      http://www.kimberlyanncoyle.com

      I miss our London life so much for this very reason. Hospitality is so natural and unforced in the UK. It was an unexpected gift.

      February 25th, 2017 15:07
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      • Viki
        http://mpmhefx.com

        That’s a slick answer to a chglelnaing question

        March 8th, 2017 21:09
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      • http://www.arloidee.com/
        http://www.arloidee.com/

        wbinlv, I am not in the medical field. I am just going on the videos I have seen on PTZ over the years. If you go and watch some you see how they usually cut the whole tract out.Thanks for the compliment? I am sure most PTZ ersknow this.

        May 20th, 2017 13:06
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  • Angela Sackett
    http://www.saletlux.com

    Oh, Kimberly – this is poignant and melted my heart. So often it’s easy to avoid asking a neighbor in because I haven’t got my makeup on or there’s a laundry bin out to be folded. As God has stretched me into more intentional hospitality, I’m amazed at what He will do when I get past “me,” and move forward in obedience in the simplicity.

    February 27th, 2017 14:42
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