Being the change

When I was a junior in high school, my mom decided that she wanted to host a weekly dinner for anyone who wanted to show up. Every Thursday night for the next two years, she (often with the help of her boyfriend, Al) cooked a tremendous amount of food for an ever-changing crowd of her friends and mine. Although I know now that things were pretty tight financially, my mom always made sure that there was more than enough to eat and that everyone– even the “Thursday Night Dinner” first-timers– knew that they were loved and important and totally welcome.

While I always appreciated her incredible generosity, I’m not sure that I ever really really understood why she cared so much about providing so many people– many she’d never met before– with a good meal. But last night, during the amazing Christmas Eve dinner that my mom and Al prepared for 17 members of our immediate and extended friends-and-family clan (who also contributed phenomenal treats of their own), her reasoning was pretty clear: it’s not about the food, but it is about the fellowship. With my dad and stepmom to my left, Dmitri and Lily to my right, and a bunch of really amazing people that I respect and admire sitting at another table just a few feet away, I felt like part of a real community. And it was a community that my mom– and all of the other wonderful people who have happened into our lives– helped design with great intention, just like she did with those  weekly dinners years ago.

Sitting on top of mom’s kitchen cabinet is a mug with Ghandi’s quote about being the change you wish to see in the world printed on it. While I know that there are some challenges and problems and fundamental issues in the world that seem insurmountable and unsolvable and entirely overwhelming, I know in my heart that fostering and building and strengthening our own communities is a great place to start– and I know, without question, that my mom is changing the world, one meal at a time.

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