In April 2011, Rachel and I started hosting something called “family dinner”. We both have friends from all walks of life, spread across the city, and we saw this as a way to strengthen community and foster new friendships. Family Dinner was a way to get everyone over at one time for food and fun.
Each month we had a theme and either she or I would host by providing the main dish. We asked everyone attending to RSVP and let us know what item(s) they would bring. We generally invited between 40-55 people and on any given month 10-25 would come.
Our last Family Dinner was this past Thursday. It was Rachel’s month to host and she chose a Thanksgiving theme. We had turkey, ham, mac and cheese, potato salad, green beans, corn, rolls, cupcakes, fruit, apple pie, ice cream and…spaghetti. It was a lot of fun for me as I was able to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and gorge myself on a Thanksgiving Dinner to replace the one I will miss this year.
I learned a lot from hosting approximately 15 of these dinners. Here are some of the lessons that stick out:
- I like rules, especially when I create them. Rules bring order and structure to chaos. I always gave very clear instructions on how to RSVP, when to do so by, why you need to write what you’re bringing, what time you should get here, etc. I did this to eliminate confusion and therefore eliminate stress because confusion=stress.
- In general, people do not follow rules. Every month that I hosted, I bemoaned the fact that the majority of guests did not follow my very clear and concise instructions.
- I get stressed when people do not follow rules. This is not only true of family dinner. This happens at work when I give instructions to my applicants and they do not follow them. And it happens in every day life when people do not follow traffic laws or quiet hours in our community. But the stress was even more evident in my preparation for these dinners.
- The world doesn’t end when my rules aren’t followed. It took many, many months to fully grasp this concept. The dinner always happened and we usually had enough food; most importantly, our goal of fostering stronger community did occur.
I learned a lot from Rachel in watching how she communicated with guests during the months that she hosted. It has been not only a blessing, but also insightful, to witness the grace that she extends to everyone with whom she comes into contact. From the beginning she has always been people-focused, whereas I am often faulted with being too process-focused.
I like order but at what cost? Over the past year and half, I have become more laissez-faire. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I am more understanding or graceful. I still have an ingrained sense, deeply embedded in my psyche, that rules, policies, regulations and instructions should be followed. I still do not know why it is seemingly so hard for some to do so. But I don’t stress about nearly as much anymore. I don’t hold onto bitterness when my instructions aren’t followed, realizing that it isn’t a personal affront (I think). And that is a personal victory.
So thank you to all the people over the months who have taken time to fellowship, brought food to share and taught me a life lesson that will carry on into the next stages of my life.