Six months ago, I announced that from now on, I would be cooking and eating dinner at church every Wednesday evening - and that anyone who wanted to join me was welcome.
A few people accepted my invitation. Throughout the summer, there would be seven to ten people joining me for dinner on Wednesdays. I put out a basket and invited those who had come more than once to put a few dollars in to help pay for the food. The money received almost covered what I spent.
The meals were simple: quesadillas, hamburgers, spaghetti. Later on I would get creative, trying new recipes, like the time I made Turkey & Vegetable Chili Verde from scratch. Delicious, fun to make, but still simple. The only beverage I provided was ice water, although our church does have a vending machine with reasonably priced beverages. We ate on paper plates with paper napkins.
At the end of summer, the number of dinner guests began to grow. Soon we were 15, then 20. One week we had 25. Some of those who came said they wanted an opportunity to cook, so I got to enjoy some Wednesday dinners without having to plan, shop, and prepare the food, which was nice. And the money in the basket soon began to surpass the amount that was spent.
As we begin our seventh month of Wednesday night dinners, I'm surprised to discover that each week is more enjoyable and satisfying to me than the previous week. I'm surprised, because I've been trained to expect just the opposite from life. Normally, satisfaction decreases over time. The new clothes I bought six months ago don't bring me nearly the same level of satisfaction today that they brought me when they were new. The DVD I bought over the summer now sits on a shelf collecting dust. I can say the same for just about everything I've ever bought. They quickly become old, tired, boring, or obsolete, and never bring me the long-lasting satisfaction that I crave.
But Wednesday night dinners remain fresh, exciting, and deeply satisfying. I figure this is true for several reasons:
- It's REAL. So often we seek to amuse ourselves with things that are VIRTUAL: TV, internet, tabloid magazines. But the people we encounter there aren't real. They're not there with us. We can't interact with TV and movie personalities, and we can only interact in a limited way with people via the internet. This leaves us dissatisfied.
- It's ORGANIC. By that I mean it's something we create ourselves. We're not dependent on someone else (TV producers, fashion designers, or corporate advertisers, for example) to mass-produce entertainment for us. This is something we've created. It's unique, and it's ours.
- It's DYNAMIC. The shirt I bought six months ago, it's still the same. The DVD I bought: the story never changes. But an experience that is real and organic will always be changing, different every time. It's dynamic, not static. New people show up, and the old people have new stories to tell. The menu changes from week to week, and so does the location where we eat: outside on the patio when it's warm, inside when it's not. In conversation around the dinner table, we listen and respond to what's going on in our lives and in our families: births, deaths, lost jobs, new jobs, new relationships, and the joys and challenges of raising children or caring for parents.
So: Who wants to join me for dinner?
(For those seriously interested in coming, yes, the invitation is real. Weekly updates are posted at www.facebook.com/bixbyknollschurch. If I'm organized enough, I'll even post the menu there. Everyone is welcome.)