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The no-Secret Secret

Who is Coming to Dinner?

I am about to reveal here a 100% guaranteed method to lift you from the doldrums! Yup, and it WILL work every single time you do it, the length of the effect depending largely on your own effort. It’s not new, nor is it complicated. It’s simply tried and true. This is meant for the blues, your winter or covid or anytime blues. However, I do well know that there are those who suffer from clinical depression.

When I lived in South Africa, one Sunday while visiting my girlfriend in another town, we went to her church. During the communion part of the service, people were encouraged to gather in smaller groups all around the sanctuary rather than partaking together as a whole congregation. An Indian man across the aisle extended his hand outward inviting my friend and me to join him and his family. An older white gentleman also gravitated toward us as did a younger tall black man. There we were, this very multicultural ensemble, all praying over and sharing the holy elements together, truly extraordinary especially when you consider the history of that country. This was totally new to me… and it made my heart sing!

I’ve always treasured that sacred memory, but it was not the only exceptional thing that happened that day. When the service was over that same gentleman and his wife, came over to me again and began to chat. He told me that he felt led to invite me to dinner one evening soon at their home. He asked if I would mind waiting until their monthly funds came in to set a date for the visit. I was so touched by his kindness, generosity and honest humility. I genuinely looked forward to it.

True to his word, he called and arranged a dinner date about two weeks hence. I did attend to their home where I had a fabulously delicious meal complete with traditional custard and jelly dessert. I had a wonderful time and felt so very blessed, a total stranger so graciously welcomed into their home. I was very humbled. Subsequently, we met several times during my time in South Africa for picnics and outings, even an overnight stay once to accommodate an early morning market excursion. Now this was truly monumental because their son had a pet snake. I am terrified of snakes and still cannot fathom that I did that! But saying no to this wonderful little family just wasn’t an option. I always enjoyed being with them. They gave me so much more than I ever gave them!

Now here’s the thing. Their home was 3 rooms, a rented wee granny flat. The meal they shared with me was the best they had and it was prepared and truly tasted like it was meant for royalty. We sat on fold up lawn chairs at the foot of their bed because there was no table. Conversation was rich and meaningful. It was absolutely glorious and it touched me deeply.

My encounter with this family prompted me to recall how I hadn’t had a dinner guest back in my Canadian home for a very long time. I always felt what I might cook and serve wasn’t good enough or that perhaps my home needed just a bit more cleaning. Yet maybe I was just plain lazy and didn’t really want to fuss prepping for company. We had an occasional dinner guest when I was growing up but my mother was always cooking or baking for our pastors and their visitors. Socializing like this now seems to be a thing of the past. When stores began opening on Sundays and Sunday became just another day to most folks, we seemed to lose such pleasures without even noticing. In semi-retirement, I slid comfortably into the ease of going out for a meal with my friends after church. But the thought of my newfound African friends, added to my mother‘s constant generosity, put me to shame. When had I truly entertained strangers, total strangers, in my home?

Searching my own heart I realized just what I was missing out on. I began to consciously decide to plan more time with my friends, especially when I fully retired, to invite them or say yes when they invited me. I began to relish the warmth and comradery that develops when you intentionally seek out one another. Simply put, this small effort makes me happy. When someone is heavy on my heart, even the tiniest deed or gesture brightens the day. I try to mindfully keep a vigil, an awareness for opportunities to bless someone and not ignore that still small voice when I hear it whisper. I watch and listen with an open heart. The recipients are blessed but to my own great delight, I ALWAYS emerge from the doldrums refreshed and renewed, guaranteed! And here’s the best part. It’s one of those life lessons that grows exponentially the more I practice it. We are created to serve one another! 1 Peter 4:10

In Zulu culture there is a philosophy called Ubuntu. It is the notion that I am ok if you are ok, and if you are ok then I am ok, and therefore, together we are all ok. It’s about buoying each other up and it is symbolized by an iron 3 legged pot used for cooking. The pot will not stand except on all three legs. Isn’t that beautiful! It is no secret. Serving others in any capacity will cure your blues. I am better, I feel better and I am a better person, when I do something for someone else just as Jesus taught me to though His own example.

Let’s revive the art of hospitality, especially when covid restrictions lift. So I pose the question, who’s coming to dinner? I am working my way up to inviting a total stranger and I promise to post here when I do have that special guest, but in the meantime, I remain mindful of the small acts of thoughtfulness available to me daily everywhere I look.

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