The Simple Things

A few months ago I stumbled upon an interview with Sarah Harmeyer at The Simple Show. Sarah shared her story of how she was an ordinary, professional, single woman living in the suburbs of Dallas with a sudden realisation that she didn’t know the people she lived next door to. Bringing her natural gift of being a ‘people gatherer’ to the fore, and asking her father to craft a cedar table to seat twenty, she placed invitations in the letterboxes of the houses that surrounded hers, inviting people to take a risk – to step outside their homes and share a meal together. All she asked was that they bring a meal or a bottle of wine. Ninety-one people showed up.

The experience inspired Sarah so much that she set herself a goal – to invite 500 people to her table in that first year. She called it Neighbor’s Table. This beautiful and simple idea has taken off and Sarah’s father now builds tables for other people who are passionate about connecting with those around them. The tables are then personally delivered all around America by Sarah herself, who hosts a special dinner party when she arrives. There is live music, poetry readings, laughter, wine and great conversation.

‘You have to listen to this.” I texted Dave immediately. He did and responded with heartfelt enthusiasm: “Let’s do it!” Our passion led to the starting of a conversation about Neighbor’s Table at Open House this month, and we were surprised to realise that so many others also resonate with the idea.

Tom and Troy, Dave’s friends from way back, have been working tirelessly for the past week to create a stunning gabled roof pergola over our deck. We peer through windows to see posts being raised, beams being painted black and clear roof panels being fitted. The space is being transformed into an outdoor room, perfect for hosting dinner parties and making incredible memories. The boys have been mesmerised by watching the process of building and have declared their love for Tom and Troy on many occasions – drawing pictures of them working, giving them enthusiastic cuddles and stealing any chance to chat. Even Ivy – the Queen of Suspicion – has begun to warm to their presence, and I’ve caught her on a few occasions directing a shy smile and wave through the glass.

We have so much vision for the area – dreamily picturing a woodfired pizza oven in the corner, gas lamp heaters on the tables to gather around, the clinking of glasses and the sound of laughter ringing out over the deck. I can see lights twinkling overhead, candles flickering in the middle of the table, the shimmering glow reflecting off the roof.

Real connection is an element that often escapes us in the harried pace our lives require. We dash from appointment to pick up, from work to dinner time – leaving little space for the languid conversations that take place over the sacred rituals of breaking bread together, drinking wine.

Last week I had the privilege of meeting up for dinner with a group of women from our estate. Kara is the People Gatherer in our neighbourhood and she came up with the idea to hang out every month, getting to know the people that live mere doors away from our own. There was a lot of laughter and more than a few memorable moments and it was such an enjoyable experience. I am very much looking forward to the next gathering.

It seems almost absurd that the simple things – eating and drinking – can be so powerful in forging friendship and connection. There is a beauty that surrounds a group of people gathered around a table, the hum of conversation and peals of laughter. I love cooking and creating meals for people to share, and I am so excited to be able to use these things that energise me to connect with the people that surround me. How can it be so simple?

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4 comments

  1. Wasn’t that podcast inspiring? It motivated our deck furniture this summer for sure. Oh, how I love your pergola! What a grand vision you have—so many people will be welcomed and loved through it! Do share pics of your next dinner party:) I’m a little nervous about throwing a party with neighbors I don’t know still. Isn’t that silly? We all just want to be loved and known and welcomed. Your family’s vision lights a fire in my soul. As always, thank you.

    1. Wow so crazy that it became a massive prompt for you too! Despite my love of taking photos I often completely forget when we have people over, but I will endeavour to do better next time 🙂 I’m a little nervous too, but the more I get to know the people around me I realise how much we have in common and how much fun there is to be had only a few streets away 🙂

  2. It has been challenging for me to get used to neighbors stopping by (or barging in) in my neighborhood here in Nepal. Crossing cultures can seem harder than crossing yards, but I was often hesitant to do that here in America. Loved this encouraging post and inspiring concept. Looking forward to reaching out more as my language improves and embracing the connectedness this culture tends to. Excited to see how your opening up turns out! I’d be all over the wood-fired pizzas in your beautiful back yard!

    1. I can’t even imagine how different and difficult it would be to navigate the norms and expectations of another culture… It is hard enough when you kind of know the rules about social engagement! If only you could drop round for some pizza on our deck – at least we can get to know each other through our words 🙂

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