I went to college with a friend whose dad would do something every time we went to his house that would forever change my life. Upon hearing us come, he would immediately stop whatever he was doing and walk over and turn off the television. He would then invite us to sit down at the dining room table and would peel a grapefruit and ask us about our day.
Even though he always started the conversation, I recall that he really didn’t do much of the talking. He was an excellent listener, and he laughed easily at our stories. He was in the moment. His whole routine was always the same so I know it was intentional, but it was very natural, so I feel certain that he did this will all guests not just me.
I’m not sure why he always chose a grapefruit, and it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that, because of his actions, I learned an important lesson about hospitality and how to let others know that I recognize their value and appreciate their presence.
The lesson that he so beautifully demonstrated is what I believe Peter had in mind when He tells us in I Pet. 4:8-9, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” We are to invite others into our lives and into our homes, so that they may see Christ.
I have been in a lot of homes, and I’ve noticed that people don’t generally get up and turn off the television when I walk in. As a matter of fact, it’s oftentimes so blaringly loud that we can hardly talk at all.
As a practice, the television is strategically located within the room. It is the center of attention. Having a guest enter the room does not change its position or status, and it rudely interrupts. I commonly see people turn it down but not completely off. When I enter a room and the television is turned off so that we can visit, this makes me feel important and welcome.
For me, the dining room table is the heart of the home. It is where a family gathers and where the belly, the mind and the soul all get filled. It is where dishes are set and food is served—where news is shared and tears of sorrow and laughter are shed and dried. It’s where problems are worked out, homework is done, current events are discussed, bills are paid and ideas and dreams are created. It’s where we hold hands and pray.
If I am invited to your table, it is more than just a chair that you’re offering. It is invitation to be included.
Have you ever noticed that things change after you’ve shared a meal with someone? You might have known a person for many years, but after you sit and eat with them, things are never the same. Connections are made, and bonds are formed over food.
I can remember asking my Grandma for different recipes that she prepared. Oftentimes I would make it EXACTLY like she did, but it tasted differently. One day I asked her why that was the case and she replied, “Did you put love in it?” Some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten weren’t prepared with the finest ingredients or in a fancy dining room, but they were prepared and served with love around someone’s humble dining room table.
I’ve always heard that being a good communicator isn’t so much about talking but is more about listening. Good listeners are hard to find. If you get the chance to be around someone who really cares to listen to you, don’t take it for granted. Most of us don’t want to just be heard anyway, but we do really want someone to listen to us.
During this time of quarantine, it’s the perfect opportunity to silence the noise, sit at the dining room table, listen and laugh and love on the people God has given you. Maybe you could even share . . . a grapefruit!