My grandmother’s house always smelled like cake. It was warm and inviting, just like she was. She had an infectious smile and gave the best hugs. Every holiday was spent at her house, where our extended family would gather around her eat-in kitchen table. My grandpa would say grace, and for the next couple of hours we would spend time filling our bellies, sharing stories, and laughing at life’s funny moments.
She didn’t have a formal dining room, or even a big table with seating for twelve, but that didn’t stop her from inviting anyone over after church who didn’t have plans for lunch. We would make room by squishing in and gathering extra chairs from around her house. She always made it a game with me and my sisters to see who could find makeshift dining room chairs and nothing was off limits, from a piano bench to my grandfather’s office chair with wheels, which we would always inevitably fight over.
She never worried about having enough silverware or even plates that matched. And she made sure there was always enough food, including dessert! What mattered most to her were the people gathered around her table.
My grandmother worked full time, volunteered at our church, and as a side hustle had her own cake decorating business for 30 years. She would spend her Friday nights making the most elaborate cakes I had ever seen for a weekend wedding, but she never let her full-time schedule stop her from inviting others into her home.
I can only imagine how busy her life must have felt, but it never overshadowed her genuine love for people, a love that welcomed the outcast or the person whose family lived too far away. Her guest bedroom was always made up for whomever needed a place to stay, whether it was for one night or many.
She showed me that you don’t need to have much to love on others in a big way. We can welcome others in with the warm gift of hospitality regardless of the size of our homes or our dinner tables. Get-togethers don’t have to be perfect to be meaningful, and we can love on others like Jesus did, just by being who we are.
Now that I’m a wife and mom who sets her own table, I want to welcome others in and offer that same type of rest and refreshment that my grandmother did. When we invite others to a seat at the table, we offer nourishment that feeds more than just appetites. Through connection and serving one another in love, we nourish souls too. This is a gift that I couldn’t quite articulate when I was young, but I felt it every time we gathered around Grandma’s table. When we choose to be purposeful in gathering with one another, we are offering something that will last long after the meal is done. This is the gift of heart and home—letting everyone know they have a seat at the table.
You can learn more about Bre Doucette’s new book, The Gift of Gathering, here.