By Rebecca D. Martin When we moved into our last house, the first piece of furniture we bought was a sofa, big, comfy, and at the top of our price range. We promised each other that, if we let ourselves buy it, we’d commit to filling it with friends. We would open our home. We would give the sofa back, in a way. Share it with others. My husband and I are introverts with big ideas and true intentions.
A year and a half later, we bought a used dining table, full of chipped-up charm. By then, our illusions had shrunk to a manageable reality, and we made no promises about numbers or chairs or dinner guests. The reality was that I had moved four times in five years. I was worn down by building new relationships in each new city. So for long, long stretches, both sofa and table held only the two---and then the three---of us, resting weary together after long weeks of working, mothering, and missing friends in other towns.
Did we fail? Did we fall clean over our good intentions of being hospitable? It probably depends on who you ask, but if you ask me, the question itself is the wrong one. Hospitality is, after all, about people. It isn’t about meeting a year-end friend quota. It isn’t about succeeding or failing. It’s about sharing life. And life can be downright messy, complex at the best of times, convoluted or worse at the most difficult. In this life, we put down roots where we can, but who knows which way they’ll grow? We intend to stretch out arms of wide welcome, but we end up reaching for help and support or comfort and calm, instead.
And now here we are again: another move, another home. The sofa settles comfortably into the new living room, and I pop out the dining table leaves to give them a good wipe-down. We think with hope about the people we will meet in this new city and what friends might fill these seats. Our intentions are true. But our expectations are open. We’ve learned that relationships will grow in their own way. Community will develop where it’s able, when it’s needed.
In the meantime, our job as a family is to put down roots and grow strong together. We sit down around the weathered dining table, join our tired grownup hands with soft, sweet, chubby ones, and offer thanks for what we have right at this moment. Just the three of us: it is a good place to start.