“Guys, these are all really amazing ideas, but I’m not sure that we’re really getting at the point of the project. We’re supposed to be generating ideas about how to raise multicultural awareness in our respective communities, and all these suggestions are super nice things we can do for people, but they don’t really raise multicultural awareness.”
It’s a group project – do you know the kind of which I speak? The kind where you’re headed nowhere fast and there is definitely a time limit. The kind where you are supposed to collaborate together and do a presentation with a specific goal in mind, and there might be a lot of excitement, but there’s no real vision and no real leader.
Somehow, I almost always end up taking over in those moments. I blame it on my take-charge-and-make-something-happen personality that the good Lord granted me. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but moments like these it comes in handy.
I re-read the goal of the project at least 3 times, but all I get is more enthusiastic off-base ideas and more blank stares. So I start scrambling for an example to get the wheels turning.
“Okay, well for example, my husband and I and our housemates have what’s called ‘Family Dinner‘ every Tuesday night. We invite our neighbors kids, co-workers, classmates, random people visiting to the city. Most people bring an ingredient to help make the meal or a dish to share, except the kids – they usually just show up with a lot of energy! We sit together, there’s always black and white, sometimes Latino and Asian too. Some people share our faith, and some people don’t. Every week we take turns telling good stories from the week, things that God has done for us or miracles we’ve seen. We take turns doing dishes afterwards, playing card games with the kids and helping them with their homework. Family Dinner is a way we raise multicultural awareness in our community because there are always people who are different from each other eating together and learning from each other. I mean, maybe the Mexican guy who works at the grocery store never would have talked to twin African-American boys from the West side or heard their story, but now he has because he came to dinner the other night.”
Let me get this straight: when I walked into class that night, I had zero intentions of sharing about Family Dinner. In fact, if I’m honest, I don’t usually think about Family Dinner in terms of “raising multicultural awareness.”
No more blank stares. Now I’m looking at dropped jaws instead. Quickly followed by the clamor of a dozen questions.
“This is simply amazing! Wow! How long have you been doing this?”
“Well, when we moved into the neighborhood last year. At first it was just a few of us, but now there’s probably 15-20 people that show up every week. But I mean, we did this in Kansas City before we moved here.”
Shock and awe. I’m not telling you this to win brownie points right now. I’m telling you, because truthfully, I was surprised that they were so surprised. I regularly forget how foreign the ways of Jesus are to people who don’t know Him.
“How did you think of this idea? Did someone show you this, did you read about it somewhere? Did you just think of this?? I mean, this is truly incredible.”
I stumbled for words. I scratched my head. I couldn’t think of how I got the idea; I couldn’t trace it back to one moment. Sharing food with my spiritual family and with people who don’t yet know Jesus is simply the way I’ve come to follow Jesus. It’s an expression of my faith. It’s normal life for me. Maybe I heard about it somewhere. I guess I did – the first followers of Jesus shared food and everything else! And followers of Jesus have been living church in this way every since. I assure you that however I ended up explaining that to my classmates was much less than glamorous and eloquent .
My lack of articulation didn’t matter. They dubbed me “the community expert” on the spot and kept asking questions.
“Has anything more come out of these ‘Family Dinners’?”
“Well sure, all the time… a few months ago someone brought someone who brought this guy who had just been kicked out of the place he was staying. Now he’s living with us.”
(And he gave his life to Jesus, is growing in his faith, and is getting mentored by our community.)
I could go on, but long story short, we ended up planning our whole group project and presentation around the idea of Family Dinner. No longer aimless, we had a vision. No longer undirected, we had a leader. And I do not mean my take-charge-personality self. I mean Jesus stepped in my group in class that night and gave us His vision for multicultural awareness. I can imagine Him chuckling over this group of stumped graduate students attempting to solve a classic social problem. Who better to strategize, than the Creator of all cultures and diversity on the Planet Himself? He’s been inviting everyone to His table for ages.
And if I may be so bold, I do believe our group project is the best of the whole class. Of course, why wouldn’t it be? Our Leader is a brilliant, funny Genius!
[Published recently in House2House Magazine.]