What is an “Open Table”?

Today I took a look back in time. What were we doing on Thanksgiving five years ago? And how have things changed since then? What I discovered surprised me.

Looking back I can see how what we did was very healing to our family as well as others and contributed to the way the children have grown and the way they think. Focusing on the topics we did was not only beneficial to us and others, but gave the children tools they can use their entire lives to stay healthy and balanced.

We can teach children to heal themselves – and others – in so many different ways.

I’ll start by sharing something very personal with you – from 2004 to 2009 we “almost” became homeless twice. It is amazing how quickly it can happen to someone and how hard it can be to find help. I was fortunate enough, in both circumstances to be saved – literally at the last moment – by a blessing. However, these experiences, combined with living overseas for sixteen years and seeing the face of poverty in different countries – have made poverty issues one of my main concerns (along with the environment and empowering people to heal themselves).

We give thanks every day that we have a home, good food, clothing, and even some extras like pets and an Ipod. At the same time I am shocked by the state of people in America – how easy it is for credit card companies and banks to “rob” hard working Americans, how easy it is to lose a job and how hard it is to earn enough to pay for all the family needs – and how easy it would be for anyone to slip from the blessed ones who have a home and job into the crowds of those who don’t. It is very easy and can happen in an instant.

I remember last year my son asked me “Mom, if they charge so much for gas, why don’t gas stations look like palaces? Why are they so small and not very good?”

That statement says so much. It is symbolic of how so many big businesses focus on earning rather than on being fair. Although there has been a slight rise in worker owned businesses .Every day I try to remind myself and my children not to function like big corporations and to focus on purchasing locally and supporting each other.

But it does not always come naturally. We are ingrained, from childhood, and trained by ads and by alluring magazines and displays at stores to always “want more”. We must retrain ourselves, on a weekly basis, to think differently.

We already have everything we need. Really. We have a home, food, clothing and plenty of books and toys. Logically, then, we should be distributing our extra instead of making Christmas lists of “what we want”. It is a hard habit to break, but I feel it is worth the effort. If we can all try to distribute more and consume less, I imagine that it might reduce the poverty of a great number of people – some of these people may even be our friends and relatives.

Every time I am tempted to purchase that $5.00 “extra” at the store I think – what could someone else do with this money?

That is why, this Thanksgiving, we will be volunteering at a homeless shelter instead of preparing a lavish feast. Now, don’t get me wrong – if we had a large family nearby or a gathering to travel to that was close enough to travel to – we would be there – the gathering of family is an amazingly important event and honorable and great tradition to hold. However, we are unable to travel this year so, it being only I and the three children, we feel the energy and food would be better shared with others.

My children and I look forward to hearing other stories on how you all share your thankfulness. There are so many different ways!

Update in 2014: This year has given us an opportunity to share bounty with many friends. My theme this year has been “open table”. Every time I prepare a meal I let my children know that their friends are welcome and my friends are welcome as well.

There have been so many cases this past year of people near us suffering the loss of a job, financial challenges or health challenges. From what I have observed it is sometimes the meals that suffer first. When one has challenges of any sort it is hard to keep up with a health meal schedule. In some cases it is even hard to afford the food to prepare such meals.

The challenges of eating healthy could be time-related, health-related or money-related. However, this is something that friends and family have the hardest time sharing. I’ve observed a lot of families needing food but not once have I heard someone ask for help.

An “open table” is a great way to give back to the community, help out and help others avoid having to ask for help if they find it difficult. Even if you are unable to host an “open table” daily you might try it once a week or even once or twice a year – on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

How to Host an Open Table

1. Prepare twice as much food as you would otherwise. Do this according to your budget, of course. Planning economical meals and shopping at places like Costco (that offer large packages of meat, vegetables and other foods at a bulk discount) helps. If you can only afford to do this once a year or once a month that is OK.

2. Let friends, neighbors and family know that they are welcome to eat with you. If someone stops by while you are eating invite them in.

3. At first this may seem strange to people, they may feel embarrassed that you are feeding them so much or they may think you are “just saying that” and you don’t really want them to come in.

4. Continue offering and preparing food. Enjoy the process. Find a homeless shelter or other shelter, hospital or other facility that is in need of home cooked meals so if nobody comes to share you will be able to split the meal into two before you eat and take the second half of the meal to someone in need.

Always be sure to prepare the meal in two halves (two separate dishes) so it is easy to divide. If you do not have a place to take the second part of the meal then you can also wrap it and store it in the freezer for the future. Some ideas on how to use it in the future include: Someone who is ill, Back up dish for your own family if you are ill, Someone who just had a baby, Someone who experienced a loss.

5. When people see that you continue to offer, that you enjoy the process and that you are sincere they will be more willing to accept. Don’t worry if there is reluctance to accept your offer at first.

This post is part of our transfer process. We are making sure all the old posts that members are requesting are available on the new BLOG before we shut down the old BLOG. In the process we are also reflecting on the posts and adding additional comments. This original post was made in November 2009.

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