At the Table together
People often ask me, “how and why do you do it?” I tell them I have a responsibility to make others feel welcomed, just as others have done for me. They are referring to my tendency to routinely welcome upwards of 20 people for dinner. Thankfully, I don’t do it alone—and everyone does their part.
By Mona Chavez
Our family provides the main dish, a couple of vegetable sides, and a few drinks. Everyone else is invited to bring an appetizer, a dessert, a side, or drinks. There is no rhythm to the flow. People arrive and set their contribution on the large kitchen island. Ahead of time, I set out napkins, disposable plates, cups, and cutlery. I make sure the bathrooms and main areas are relatively clean and inviting. We briefly say a thankful prayer before the meal, being mindful that not everyone may be of the same faith. Everyone casually helps themselves and we all have meaningful conversations while the children play outdoors. That’s a typical day of gathering at the Chavez Household.
I grew up in a family of seven plus an occasional dog. At the age of five, my father bought a home in Texas while he struggled with his professional life as a teacher. My mother, a stay-at-home mom, always made sure there were parties at our house even when finances were not looking good. However, the best events were at my grandparents’ home.
Once school was let out for the holidays or vacations, we would drive up from El Paso to Colorado, where my mom’s side of the family had immigrated in the 60s. With an extended family of over 65, those celebrations became a learning opportunity. I saw people interacting and being there for each other. Traditions and customs of Mexican heritage were passed down at these gatherings. My grandparents passed away a few years ago in their early 90s, but even in their late years, they still enjoyed having people visit and made ordinary days into celebrations.
I am so thankful that their fondness for congregation was passed down to me. Gathering with people over a meal has been the most meaningful and rewarding skill I have mastered as a citizen of this earth. Are you feeling disconnected? I encourage you to try it. Graciously welcome people to join you in this life. Who knows? One day we might end up at the same table sharing a meal.
My five simple rules of hosting
- Be personal and share your life with others of different backgrounds
- Don’t have any expectations
- Be casual more often than formal
- Solicit help ahead of time if needed
- Allow the children to entertain themselves without excessive supervision