Paper products and leftover spaghetti. That was the best I could do for our community dinner last Thursday.
My family hit a bit of a rough patch last week. An array of illnesses (nothing serious, but seemingly unrelenting) temporarily sucked all the vitality from my home. I debated cancelling our weekly dinner. But decided instead to open my front door, welcome our people in, enjoy the company of good friends, while being completely honest that what we had to offer that evening was pretty limited.
Surprisingly, our mustard seed of hospitality was enough. And the evening was refreshing and lovely.
For all of us, some weeks that are just harder than others – and not necessarily for any catastrophic reasons. Sometimes temporary illnesses or circumstances or moods are enough to make it challenging to feel enthusiastic about anything. In those times the best we can do is just keep putting one foot forward, moving slowly, yet steadily through the flat muck.
During these times I find that repeating Shauna Niequist’s mantra “present over perfect” is particularly helpful to staying on track. I keep myself from getting stuck or lost in a bought of listlessness by choosing to simply keep show up to do the next thing on my calendar – in a flawed, but sincere way – even when I’m not necessarily feeling passionate about anything.
Some times my best is not creating a made-from-scratch meal, served at a beautifully set table. Some times my best is just continuing to invite our community into our home to enjoy reheated leftovers, while being honest about my frazzled or sluggish state of mind. To be present with people I care about, while releasing myself from the pressure to be or create something awesome.
There is always a temptation to withdraw from our community when life is glaringly imperfect. However there is something beautiful and wonderful and good about engaging with our people at our table even when our best is paper plates and leftover spaghetti. Something intimate and important happens in those gatherings.
Because those are the moments that give others the permission to be imperfect too.
Permission to be honest when life is lacking enthusiasm and passion.
Permission to express feelings other than joy and optimism.
Permission to be real.
I hope you share many meals with your community that are beautiful and delicious. And I hope you have the opportunity to serve up some reheated leftovers on paper plates.
“Present over perfect”. It is the magic ingredient we all need to create a community that can grow into something meaningful, lasting, and true.