Build a bigger table, not a higher fence

When you have more than you need build a bigger table - not a higher fence.

Are you ready to stumble into the heartbeat of the world?

A little while back I shared this meme on Facebook:

If you have more than you need build a bigger table – not a higher fence. 

I went to bed and didn’t think much of it. Just a few days later and more than 1.75 million people had viewed it (and counting). It was clear that I’d stumbled onto the pulse of something enormous. What was happening? Why did so many people see, share and like this simple statement?

I have a few theories.

We’re tired of living in a boxed-in world.

Our fence is as tall as the rest of them. Presumably tall fences exist so that we can water our plants in our jammies. I’ll admit: There’s something freeing about lounging in my robe while sipping a cup of tea – secure in the knowledge that no one has to shield their children from my fuzzy slippers or towel turban.

But this comfort comes at a cost.

Tall fences interrupt casual encounters with our neighbors. Those fifteen-minute chats that start with trivial banter about the weather? They can end with impromptu barbecues and deep friendship. If it weren’t for the Bearded Boys – our old neighbors who insisted on lugging their dining table to the front yard and declared back yards and fences the worst – we probably would have never thought twice about the solitude our fences provide.

TheBeardedBoys

We are craving connection.

With our thumbs sore from scanning our phones and our necks stiff from Netflix, the very idea of filling an enormous table with food, friends, and lively chatter can feel overwhelming. So many people express their loneliness on social media but avoid making the phone call that could result in a meaningful gathering.

Why? Because it’s hard.

Risking rejection is scary.

My freshman year of college I did what all kids do: I called home to see what the family’s plans were for Thanksgiving. My guardians had taken care of me since I was 10. But during that phone call they told me that, now that I was 19, I no longer needed to stay with them.

Sigh.

None of us want to be rejected. Sometimes there’s a big rejection, other times it’s a series of smaller rejections. Either way the result is the same: we’re less willing to reach out and try. We simply burrow deeper into ourselves.

Sasha Martin as a little girl

Cultivating deep friendship takes time.

I moved to Tulsa in 2005.  As the new girl in town, I had to learn how to pick up the phone and invite people over and out. It’s scary and it doesn’t always work out. For a while my motorcycle hobby made it easier – we had a shared experience to fall back on. But once I had my daughter I sold my bike and with it went my go-to ice breaker.

I had to start all over with the moms I met at library play groups. Some people grew up in Tulsa and already had full calendars. Some people didn’t click with me – just like dating. But once in a blue moon I struck friendship gold.

It’s been ten years and I’m finally feeling more at ease with my friendships. Ten years.

These things take time.

Families are more spread out than ever.

As we spread out around the country and globe, we’re farther from our families than ever before. The meme’s vision of an enormous table full of laughter, conversation and chaos creates nostalgia for a family we may never have had – but always wanted – or for a family we once had but have since moved away from.

The idea of opening ourselves up to greater community appeals to the child inside of us who wanted to invite everyone to their birthday party.

Even the mailman.

What would it be like if we could recapture the open, trusting spirit of our inner child?

What if we took a leap from our lonely perch and once again invited everyone into our hearts?

Potsdam, Frühstückspause der Gerüstbauer

Potsdam, Frühstückspause der Gerüstbauer

Scary news gets old.

Some people shut down because of fear – after all, the media loves to share the sensational and the terrible. All that negative energy skips over the good and can clog a well-meaning heart. It can make us forget the good in the world.

And there is good in the world.

We all want to love and be loved. We all want to nourish ourselves and our families.  Some of us reject the curmudgeonly view of the world. We share a different vision. One of coming together. Of our world being an enormous family.

Reporters like to ask me who my dream dinner companion would be.

I have a hard time choosing just one person. I suppose that makes sense after cooking more than 650 recipes from every country.

I’d like to set an enormous global table and invite the entire world to join in. No food fights, no arguments. Just a giant helping of togetherness.

Oh, and one other thing: no fences.

We created a mini version of this dinner a couple of years ago, when we created the Global Table Experience – a feast with food from nearly every country in the world right here in Tulsa. The food was donated by a team of local chefs and the event was hosted at Philbrook, on the museum’s free day. People piled their plates high and enjoyed food from all over the world with a suggested donation of 1 can of food per person.

But there is more to do.

We need less isolation, more community, and greater feasts for all.

And we can start by making room in our hearts.

Go ahead. Risk rejection. Make a few calls. Tear down those fences. Build a bigger table.

It’s worth it.

Sending love to you and yours,

xxoo
Sasha

All of us, all over the world, are cells in the body of humanity. You are not separate from your fellow humans, and you cannot find harmony for yourself alone. You can only find harmony when you realize the oneness of all and work for the good of all." Peace Pilgrim

15 Comments

    • It was tough. There’s a lot of story before that moment (I share how we got to that place in my memoir) … In the end it shaped who I am today. Their influence gave me a fantastic education and cultural experiences overseas. There probably wouldn’t be a GTA had I not spent those years with them.

  1. Gwen Larsen says

    Wow! All your theories seem solid to me, too…but on top of that, please take credit for your natural ability to write with genuineness, warmth, clarity, succinctness & uniqueness! that must count for several thousand of us who “got it” on the first read & felt moved to “share”, like me. (Let us know when it hits 2 million & I will cook one of your meals to celebrate with your family!)

  2. Sasha; your brothers and sister love you very much. If only we lived closer together. We ARE your family, remember those thanksgiving’s we finally spent together after years of being separated? Good memories don’t ya think? Remember when I cooked the gizzards in the turkey. LOL <3

  3. Beautiful writing, but also the photo was timely given the recent crisis in Syria. Today several countries are erecting barriers, instead of inviting in the hungry, vulnerable who have left behind their homes, who have no idea when they will once again sit at their own kitchen table.

  4. Just finished reading your book. It was heartouching and marvelous. Which actually leads me to this blog. Always looking forward for your next creative touch.

  5. Watching the fence go up in Europe to keep those in need of a table, a good meal and to feel welcome, your post has struck a cord with many I am sure. My the fence come down and the table get larger.

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