What would you say is your favorite place in your home? The place where you feel the most content, where the most life happens? Is it on your couch? Maybe your kitchen? For me, growing up it was always at the dining room table. My mom worked really hard for my sister and I, and we lived with my grandparents for a while when we were young so that she could go to graduate school. Even so, every night they always made sure we sat together at the table to eat dinner and connect. Later on as we grew up and my granparent's moved away, we would go and stay with them during the summer, and we'd have 3 square meals a day, all at the table. These meals were no small affair... my grandma (Gammy, as we called her) spared no expense at making every meal one that stuck to your bones and warmed your soul. With dinner there was always homegrown vegetables, home made bread and dessert, and even a freezer chilled glass with fresh milk! I can still see the spread across the table, all of the food made with such love. But the food wasn't even the best part...
It was them. The people that I loved most all in one place. Whether at my mom's or grandparent's, I was surrounded by my favorite people. At my grandparent's we would listen to them share stories of the "old days" with Willie Nelson or Patsy Cline softly playing in the background. Most nights we would sit long after the food was cleared from our plates, taking a short break to stretch our legs and grab some sort of dessert and then sit back down at the table for a game of spades or dominoes. Call it old fashioned, but these are some of the fondest memories I have. Apart from maybe a front porch with a warm summer breeze, the table was where it was at!
Dinner at the Palm House looks quite different! It get's pretty wild having 15 rowdy boys all sitting in one place, each one having their own comment and wanting to be heard. It can be tiring at times, but it's become the time I love most! It's where we can hear about their day, about school, about what they learned and struggled with, and many times it reminds me of how grateful I am for the experience I had at my own dinner table. They may not come out and say it, but most of these kids don't get to sit at a table with their family. Some of their parents work night shifts, some of them have families that just don't care, and some of them don't even have food... I have sent kids home with leftovers because they didn't have anything to eat at their house. At the Palm House, no matter what their home life is like, when they are at the dinner table they are all equal and they will always have enough.
This is why I wanted to make a table. We had two tables side by side, but they didn't really feel like they brought you together when you sat down at them. I've been fortunate to learn a trade with wood working and construction, and I wanted to make something that would be at the Palm House for a long time and could really draw people in. Because we are also a non profit, I try to do things with as little of a cost as possible. I found all the wood around town and apart from some hardware and stain, I was able to build them for free. They are three seperate tables that fit together as one, and I did this mainly because a 12 foot table is extremely heavy and not easy to move, so this way made it manageable to get into the house and set up while still giving the feel of one large table.
After I finished them, I sent a picture to my old boss that I built cabinets and did remodeling for and just told him thank you for all that he taught me and how grateful I was that I could take what I learned and make something for others. He replied:
"Love the design, the motif, and the fact that they were built of reclaimed wood by a man that reclaimed his life and is in pursuit of reclaiming others! Be praying for people to "come to the table!"
That is my hope and what I want most of all...For these kids, the ones that feel less than and have been told they won't amount to anything to come and feel loved and that they belong. Like my boss said, I want their identity and value to be reclaimed from wherever it has been lost. When I read about Jesus and how
he did life, I see one of his main ministry times being at the table. Whether with prostitutes and tax collectors or disciples and best friends, the table was the place where the playing field was equal, where
Jesus reclined and connected to the people he sat with.
I pray that this table would be a place where healing occurs, where dreams are birthed, where weights are lifted off, where freedom is released, where acceptance is felt, and of course where bellies are filled...