God Came to Dinner Friday Night

IMG_8885The table was set with one of my favorite meals of quesadillas with lots of fresh toppings and sides. It was a lovely meal, though not too fancy. Some Friday nights we have guests who join for dinner, but tonight it was just “family”—residents, staff and volunteers along with one resident’s mother and another’s close friend. It was a full house and a full table.

I joined a few minutes late and noticed a special tenderness in the air as soon as I sat down. Tommy, who is usually the most talkative, was struggling to stay awake as he ate. Patty was on one side gently holding him steady as he drifted in and out. I saw what she means when she says that our meal times are about so much more than food. Even when a resident isn’t able to eat—or even unable to come downstairs for the meal—the community still holds their place at the table.

Sitting next to me was one of Tommy’s good friends, a gentleman who had recently become homeless. Before dinner, he told one of our staff members that he was self-conscious about coming to dinner at the house, as he had once or twice before. He feared we might think he was hanging around too much. She assured him that we were glad to have him there visiting his friend and sharing another meal with us. All of us around the table were self-conscious about something she told him. Indeed, I am self-conscious about being an exuberant eater and later he and I shared a laugh as he slipped me an extra napkin after a bit of my meal ended up on my shirt.

There really wasn’t much talk as we ate and Patty suggested it might be a good night for music. Soon Al Green was playing as background music, before getting cranked up and taking center stage.

I looked across the table and saw mother and daughter in a gentle embrace, the daughter resting her head in the crook of her mother’s shoulder. Theirs had not been an easy relationship for many years and I knew that simple gesture spoke volumes. A few moments later, I noticed that the mother had placed her hand through Tommy’s arm. He was sitting on her other side, and ever so gently her hand had come to rest on his forearm, a man she’d come to know only through her visits to the house to see her daughter. With Patty on the other side, Tommy was bookended by tender care.

Around the table, folks were swaying and humming to the music as they ate. Robert, who had moved in two days before, had his eyes closed, singing along and clearly transported to another place and time. Later, he’d tell us that the songs had taken him back to his youth when he cruised the streets of DC in his ’55 Chevy.

As the food was finished, the music grew louder, some drifted off to smoke as others of us stayed to listen—and dance. Rochelle stood with some difficulty and sang along passionately to Lay Your Head on My Pillow as Johnny grabbed Patty for a spin around the dining room.

The music played on as folks continued to drift away, but a sense of the magic lingered. Later, sitting on the front porch, my colleague recounted the conversation she’d had with Robert, who had been transported by the music back to his youth. He’d told her that if he died tonight, he would die happy. He said that he was amazed to think of all the trouble outside in the world. Somewhere out there, he noted, a woman was grabbing her kids and fleeing her home in fear of violence, while in here we were singing and dancing. Surely, he said, the world would come to see that this was the way to live.

I hope he’s right. There we were, a group of 11 or 12, seemingly so different and yet so at ease with one another. Black and white, straight and gay. Young and not-so-young. Poor and not-so-poor. The well and the very sick. All of us wounded.

In the hour that we shared, all I witnessed and all I felt was love.

Who could have imagined that do-it-yourself quesadillas would be a banquet for the Kingdom of God? But in our dining room last Friday night, surely it was.


  1. marissa says

    This is a beautifully depicted memorable God-night. Thank you much for sharing…it really blessed me.
    I have been to dinner at Jospehs house once, and what a memorable night it was for me. I’m so glad that God is living and loving in your home.

    • Scott Sanders says

      Marissa —
      Thank you for writing. It means a lot to know that his piece touched you.

  2. Maggie Machledt Girard says

    Scott, thank you for this. I was wanting to describe an evening at J House to a friend, and I will suggest they read this. Beautiful.

    • Scott Sanders says

      Maggie, so nice to hear from you. Thanks for writing. Know you shared many wonderful meals during your time here. Be well.

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