This is the gift I present to every one who has been a part of our weekly community dinners as they move away from our great city towards whatever is next on their journey. A fork and knife from my silverware drawer (the actual cutlery they have used every week at our table), wrapped in a cloth napkin, with a note reminding them that the invitation to be a part of our family meals never ends. No matter how far they go or how long they are gone.
Within the bonds of community, good-byes create a significant opportunity to love well. I always plan an intentional time of sending when someone is sharing a meal with us for last time before a major life change. In addition to being presented with this gift, I prepare their favorite dish. And our evening ends by everyone who is at the table gathering around the one leaving to offer affirmations and blessings as they close one chapter of their life and begin a new one.
Making our homes places where people are known and loved deeply, as well as sent with the assurance of their worth and all they have to offer can be a rare and precious gift in today’s culture.
We live in a society that measures the worth of investing in anything by the return that will come back to us. The community that we strive to create in our homes doesn’t calculate value by that standard.
Living in radical community means that the fullness of our caring is not measured out according to how long people are going to stay or how much they can give back.
We open the doors of our home wide, invite others in, and choose to love whole-heartedly, knowing that we will say good-bye to many of the people who come. And it may hurt a little, but it is still so worth it.
When I was younger I thought that the value of a relationship was directly proportional to it’s length. However, I have lived long enough now to know that that is not true. Some friendships are a wonderful part our lives for a specific season and then they end. For a long time I did not place enough value on the impact these friendships have on who I am becoming. The mere fact that life transitions sometimes bring closure to a friendship does not necessarily make that relationship less meaningful in my life.
And this truth does not in any way minimize the sacred gift of lifelong friendships. I am so grateful for the people who are bound to my heart by unbroken ties. But the significance of those friendships in my life does not need to devalue the gift of relationships that were for a specific season.
For most of my life I have been horrible at good-byes. I really do dread them. I would like to believe that everyone I know and love will never leave so that I can remain closely connected to everyone I have ever cared about. Forever. My husband refers to this as “Wendy’s World” – a place that is lovely, but unfortunately is also very unrealistic.
And so, since relationships changing, seasons of life shifting, and people moving is an ever present reality in the community that I am cultivating in my home – I have had to learn how to be much better at saying good-bye.
I find great comfort and purpose in shifting my perspective of good-byes from ending to sending.
Endings are sad, and they often focus on what is being lost.
Sendings acknowledge that even though loss and sadness exist, there is also much to celebrate in the beauty of what has been shared and the new things that are beginning.
They create a beautiful opportunity to affirm another person’s worth and value – acknowledging the unique presence that they brought into my home, honoring the invaluable influence they had in our community, and blessing the relationships and work that is their future.
Speaking words of love that hopefully reach the depth of another’s soul to let them know that we are always here if they need us, and it really is okay if they don’t. I want them to know that regardless of how often or how deeply we communicate moving forward, their friendship has mattered. It will continue to be a source of great delight. And my home will remain a place of safety, acceptance, and belonging for them even as our relationship changes over distance and time.
Ryan and I invite people in to our community by having them sign their name on our table in permanent marker. And being thoughtful about how that relationship comes to a close is just as important.
Loving well means finishing well. So as you cultivate a community of belonging in your home, create a ritual that is unique to the heart of your home – that you experience together – as members move on to what’s next in their journey. Because sending truly is one of the most essential things that we do to make our community feel like family.