When I was younger, I was sure that loneliness was both inevitable and temporary. It was simply the price one paid for moving to a faraway city or taking a new job or joining a different church.
Loneliness was a straightforward ailment easily cured in time.
Now that I am older, I understand loneliness not as a sickness but a shadow. The sun shines brightly here in the land of the living, but at certain times of day it casts a chilly shade. Perhaps early in the morning we recognize that a friendship has faded or a spouse seems distant. Perhaps late in the day we accept that long illness has left us craving company.Loneliness may be inevitable but it is not predictable, and time is as likely to exacerbate the condition as cure it.
Over the years, I have made some measure of peace with the shadows. I now know that the greatest friends are not replaceable. Once, I lived in a city and could, within a few blocks, drop in on half a dozen dear friends. Now we rely on email and very occasional visits. These relationships live more in the shadows than in the sun, but they are no less precious for that.
I no longer consider it my duty to clean away every last scrap of darkness, but I am learning how to let in more of the light. Partly, it requires my own effort (open the blinds). Partly, it asks for patience (wait for the clouds to part).
More than a year ago, a local friend and I hatched an elaborate plan for a cookbook supper club. She and I had moved to this town at the same time a few years before, and we both wondered why we had still managed to make so few friends. Our solution was a monthly gathering of women sharing foods potluck style from the same cookbook. But no one we invited seemed to be available on the same day, and as my life spun out in a direction I could not have predicted, our plans faltered and eventually stalled.
A few months ago, my friend and I sat in my kitchen and talked over cups of tea. If anything our schedules had become more full, but we had both reached that point of exasperation where we knew something had to be done. Open the blinds! Try again!
We chose a date: the second Saturday of every month. We cut out the complexity and traded the cookbook idea for a simple theme. We sent out emails and messages. And then we showed up, one dish to share in each hand.
Our first month, we were three. Our second month, we were eight.
How good it is to know that no matter the weather today, no matter the forecast for tomorrow, I have a penciled note on my calendar reminding me exactly when the sun can be counted on to shine.
Tips For Starting Your Own Supper Club
Our supper club is new, but for those of you interested in organizing your own regular gathering, here are a few things we have already learned:
- Pick an easy-to-recall date and stick with it. Ours is the second Saturday of every month at 7 pm. The idea is not that everyone will be able to make every gathering. Rather, with a fixed date one less thing needs to be planned, and participants can join in or opt out month by month as schedules allow.
- A theme helps bring a potluck together more deliciously, but keep the themes simple for the first few months. We chose “winter comfort foods” and “south of the border.” We would like to try more ambitious themes, but we are saving those until after we have a few good dinners under our belts.
- A supper club facebook group can make it easier to send announcements and share recipes.
- Invite each guest to bring their own food storage containers. At the end of the night, divvy up the leftovers!
Finally, if you would like to organize a dinner gathering with purpose, may I recommend a new organization designed to help you do exactly that? Thanks to STIRR, delicious and meaningful Indian dinners have begun happening worldwide, and you are invited to participate.
STIRR works in partnership with freedom businesses in India to share with dignity the family recipes and personal stories of Indian women who have found hope and transformation beyond the dark realities of sex trafficking. STIRR aims to build bridges of understanding between distant communities, to give women an opportunity to tell their own important stories with dignity, and to support the businesses that are bringing light to dark places. Sign up here for delicious recipes, freedom stories, and conversation starters for your own gathering.
Tell me, how do you let in the light?