During a recent date night, my wife and I saw the movie “A Star is Born” with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. The movie depicts the journey of Ally, a young singer who finds fame beginning with a chance meeting of Jackson Maine, a successful country musician. A romantic relationship quickly blossoms, but the weight of his alcoholism leads Jackson’s career and their marriage down a dark path. Leslie and I enjoyed it partially because the director didn’t tell the whole story, instead, he left small spaces that allowed the audience to fill in the backstory. I find that the best books, movies, and songs have this common thread of audience participation woven into their stories and lyrics. The singer-songwriter John Mellencamp said it best in discussing his art,
“Keep it vague so people can include themselves into what you are saying, or what your singing, or what you’re painting. Don’t be so specific that it becomes exclusive to you.”
This resonates with me as I think of how we interact with each other and our community. As we continue to reach out to the community, interact with visitors, and participate in fellowship we must provide enough space to allow the other person to take part at the moment. In addition to giving the other person an opportunity to contribute their gifts to an activity, conversation, or project, space helps feed our own curiosity to develop an authentic interest in the individual.
While watching the movie “A Star is Born,” I thought about the risks that Ally took to become a pop star, and the support she received so she could take a risk. She received emotional support from a loving father and positive encouragement from her friends. When opportunity knocked at her door the encouragement had given her the strength to lean in, grab it, and move her life forward.
Our community dinners are an example of how we are serving both the families we break bread with, and the volunteers who organize, cook and serve the delicious meals. Our mission statement is
“We are followers of Jesus, who tend God’s garden, serving the mind, body, and spirit of all God’s children.”
We are fulfilling our mission! The meals we serve nourish our neighbors’ bodies, and more importantly, the moments created in sharing a dinner together feed their spirit. We create a space for meaningful fellowship. A place where a woman who endures discrimination in her workplace feels welcome and her voice heard. We create a space for community reflection. A place where a cook admires the strength and perseverance of a neighbor’s quiet yet powerful work ethic. We create a space to breathe. A place where a mother can enjoy a meal with her young family in-between taxiing her boys from one extra-curricular activity to the next.
Have we created a space for you?
We are blessed to have a committed team of volunteers who have created a dependable process to serve 100 or so community members each month. Like tending a vegetable garden that has been well maintained, our community dinners will continuously need to be watered and weeded, but the hard work of rototilling the soil is done.
As we look to expand our community service and tend to God’s greater garden, there may be hard soil to be plowed or who knows, we may be fortunate enough to find fertile soil. Wherever we locate needy children, let us be sure to plant our vegetables with enough room for them to flourish. Let’s make sure we are not excluding the very ones we seek to serve or the people we need to accomplish our mission. Together let’s look to support individuals in ways that enable them to take life-altering risks; – investigate their faith, reach out to loved ones, seek help, try new careers, uncover hidden talents or find the strength to be vulnerable. As you walk through your week, ask yourself, ask a friend, or ask a colleague
“How can I serve my neighbor so he or she can take more chances to succeed?”
Remember, when we serve our neighbor, we shine a spotlight on love, and allow others to turn away from darkness and fear. Once a person feels heard, loved, and supported, the next opportunity does not feel as overwhelming. A safety net has been erected and tested, or a roadblock has been taken down, giving your neighbor the confidence to attempt something outside his or her comfort zone. Imagine what things you would try if you were free from the fear of failing? Would you make different decisions? If so, let us find ways to pay it forward!