Family is not about sharing DNA, but sharing time.
When I was a kid, the console TV was turned off, homework put away, American girl dolls put back in their trunks, and three little, blonde, curly-headed girls and their parents sat around an old table to have a meal together. It never mattered the meal, it mattered the people. We would sit for hours while my dad told us stories and asked us history questions. We would beg him to tell us how he met mom just ONE MORE TIME. Mom would sit and gaze at him, giggle when he exaggerated their love story, and sip sweet tea. Table time would last hours on end in our house, it made meal time the best time.
I watched as I grew older the way that my parents used a table to create family, to know souls, and to love God’s people.
About a year ago, my history professor and American dreamer of a Dad walked out of his office and discovered a line of African men sitting on the floor. The men were soccer players and students at the University where Dad works. They looked at him with desperation in their eyes and stood to greet him.
“Dr. Plunkett”, they quietly spoke in their thick Zimbabwe accents, “We hear you give people work, and sir, we need work.”
My dad nodded, they conversed, and work was given. My dad grew up on a farm and would gladly distribute work to anyone willing, it made him proud to see those young men eager to earn.
He gave them yard work and odd and end jobs that helped him day to day. But work was not all that was given, the table was. My mom made extra food each day those boys would work and sent home endless amounts of food filled to the brim of her never ending amounts of tupperware, believe me, she does not lack in tupperware.
The boys began celebrating birthdays and holidays with my parents, giving above and beyond. They began inviting others on their team, guys from other parts of Africa, to join them. On Fathers Day they flooded my Dad’s phone with text messages thanking him for being the best dad, for pushing them and believing in them. On his birthday, they slipped a card under his door reading “For our Dad.”
The boys became like family. They came to gatherings at my parent’s house, around the table. Every time they came, the TV turned off, phones were put away, and sweet tea was sipped. The laughter would erupt as the boys learned my parents love story and mom routinely rolled her eyes with a bashful smile. *She loves his exaggeration*.
Christmas day was different. Different for the “Zimbabwe Boys” (as my mother calls them), and different for the Plunkett Family.
The three little girls from years ago have grown and gotten married. One was away with in-laws, while me and the other were sticking close to home. Christmas felt weird, a little sad, and slightly unnatural. We weren’t three, blond, curly-headed girls “oo-ing” over new dolls and a game of dream phone. We were grown ups.
Nostalgia flooded my mind as I thought of what Christmas was once like for all of us together. Before I could get too emotional, the smell of pot roast, turkey, casseroles, and desserts flooded the house, erased those thoughts, and replaced them with a stirring of deep hunger in my belly. And I realized. The table was about to be filled.
I helped mom with her finishing touches on dessert and in floods five, strapping men, dressed nice and smelling like a fresh shower. *The Zimbabwe boys had arrived*, along with their friends from Cameroon and Morocco. I realized right then that thousands of miles separated these handsome men from their culture, their blood, their DNA. These boys weren’t just soccer players from a foreign country to us though, they were family.
It was no longer DNA that gave us all a sense of community; it was the table that brought us together.
I wish this picture wasn’t so grainy. It was the sweetest time sitting and learning from these awesome guys!
How often are you turning off your distractions to truly spend time with each other? May be something fun to try this week 🙂