Last week we gathered some couples in our home for a casual dinner of chicken chili and ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce. We lit candles, and a fire in the fireplace and it snowed outside. The house was almost all decorated for Christmas except our tree wasn’t up yet. It felt cozy and I loved getting to know these folks better, connecting them to each other.
One thing we often do when we have new friends over is to ask each person to write down a little known fact or hobby, or experience, or accomplishment. We fold the papers, put them in a bowl and draw them out one at a time. As we read them, we try to guess who wrote each one.
Afterwards, here’s a picture I posted on Instagram.
In addition to that, we had a second person who had also been featured on the cover of a romance novel, and one who had been in a picture in the National Inquirer! Did I mention these were all couples in ministry??? There was a fascinating story behind each statement!
In the past we’ve had someone at our table with a literal “foxhole conversion”. Another who sat next to Lady Diana on a plane flight. One who had been struck by lightning. And another who had the job of choosing what colors to light the Empire State Building!
We think we are “ordinary” people! And each of these were “ordinary” people! It’s just a reminder to me that everyone has a story if we take the time to ask.
Then, the other night I was at a lovely dinner at a country club – a fund raiser for a Christian evangelistic organization, specifically targeting millennials. The people around me were middle aged and very conservative. Conservative theologically, politically, culturally. They dressed the part.
Except for one. The 23 year old sitting next to me who reeked of smoke and wore “alternative lifestyle” proudly. I was fascinated. I wanted to know her story. I asked her to tell me about her tattoo. I asked her to tell me about her studies in film. I asked what she thought of the speaker. Silently I prayed for her and tried to listen deeply to what she said. I wanted her to feel that her story was valued. Heard.
C.S. Lewis says, “There are no ordinary people.” We all have our little stories that are part of the larger story God is writing. These examples may seem frivolous, but with time, around our tables, we create safe places where the deeper stories can emerge. Stories of pain and hope and redemption. Stories that knit us together in the kingdom of God.
The ordinary people sitting at your table and mine are extraordinarily beloved messes and masterpieces. Just like us. We just need to ask the right questions to get to know them.
What ways have you found to draw out the stories of those you meet?