What Happens When We Gather
Ambassador Jill Moerschell and her attorney husband live in Frisco, Texas, with their four kids, a cat, and two dogs. Today on Flourish, Jill puts her writing skills to work with the goal of helping all of us see how, in the age of social media, gathering together in our everyday lives is still a practice worth its weight in gold.
Here we are racing toward the end of the year. The air is becoming crisp, leaves are changing, and the local coffee shop is filled with the mingling aromas of coffee and pumpkin spice, soon to fade to peppermint. People begin to reflect on the year and there is a new busyness this season as we try to grab each moment left. And maybe the calendar is rapidly filling or maybe it starts to feel empty.
Long before the temperatures began to fall (or slightly fall, for my local Texans), I listened to an episode of the Happy Hour podcast with Jamie Ivey featuring Sarah Harmeyer, founder of the Neighbor’s Table. The Neighbor’s Table is a company that fosters community and loving one another through the concept of people gathering. It grew out of Sarah’s own loneliness after moving to a new town with a new busy job and her realization that her gift of gathering people would not only help her connect with people in this unfamiliar environment, but give people space to connect with each other as well. Sarah asked her handy father to build a big picnic table for her backyard and she began inviting people over—and by and large, these were people she did not know. First, she invited her whole neighborhood and had a tremendous turnout. And from there, her table has grown beyond her own backyard and encouraged others far beyond her new town to people gather too. At Sarah’s table, connections are made and grown. People feel valued and perceptions are changed, all because Sarah gathered people together for dinner.
Photo: A Daily Something
As I soaked up Jamie and Sarah’s conversation that day, I thought about my own feelings of community and connection. I thought of the terrible isolation that had been so prevalent within me less than a year before and what had happened in subsequent months to open my eyes to the good things that happen when people come together. And I felt moved to do more. I told my husband I wanted to host bimonthly dinner parties at our home with the women in our neighborhood. Thank goodness for my patient husband – he knows I stress about having people over and seeing our messy lives, but he was all in from the start and encouraged me. So, I sent out a message to neighbors with my intent to invite them to dinner, and extend the invite to anyone else that came to their minds. These dinners would focus simply on spending time together. No agenda and certainly not some Pinterest type dinner party. And, guess what? They were all in. I was convicted and validated all at the same time by their quick, supportive response. While we lived on the same street and were already friends, the idea to get together and enjoy each other’s company resonated with us all. I just provided the location.
Before I go further, I need to make a little confession: I am not a natural people gatherer. I am a bit of an introvert and generally recharge by myself or in quieter spaces. I like to sit on my couch. I like to binge watch my favorite television shows and scroll through my favorite social media places. It is easy, and it can be relaxing, and what I find on television or social media can make me feel happy, sad, hopeful, angry, and a variety of other things. But only sort-of, kind-of when I do these things alone. It is a person to a screen relationship that cannot grow deep connections, and this motivated me to step beyond myself and become a people gatherer.
Photo: Inspired by This
So, what is it about people gathering that is so important? There are so many reasons, and I bet they vary person-to-person, but here is what immediately comes to mind for me:
It is about being invited.
Whether we are 5, 25, 45 or 60, we all like to be invited. Our schedules may be full, our days may be long, it may seem we have not a moment to spare, but being invited matters. It stinks to feel left out. And, wow, social media is probably the worst to administer the sting in the lack of an invite: is everyone getting together at that trendy restaurant but us? What is up with that? And, beyond social media, what about that mom standing on the soccer field who just moved here from out-of-state? I’m pretty sure she would like to be invited. She’s trying to find her way in a new community. What would it feel like for her to be invited?
Photo: A Daily Something
It is about connection.
Each one of us has our own unique story, but there are threads in each of our stories that bring connection. There is the woman with the child that will not sleep through the night for the love of all good things; or the woman who has experienced frustration at work over being undervalued, overworked, and overstressed. There is the woman experiencing the pain of divorce; the woman who is grieving the loss of something or someone she loves, or something she did not get the chance to know. We may not know these connections are shared until we gather in meaningful ways, and we may not know how to share them, and maybe we are not even experiencing the same things, but over person-to-person conversation, these threads in our own stories become interwoven. We can empathize. We can lift up, we can relate, we can laugh, we can cry, we can even roll our eyes in shared frustration. All foster connecting moments in people gathering.
Photo: A Daily Something
It is about unwinding.
Yes, every one of us is busy. The busyness can be for wonderful reasons. We can love our jobs, whether they be at home, at the office, or some combination of the two. But we cannot function at high-level busy all the time. Unwinding is healthy and necessary to keep pouring into the good busy too. Even as an introvert, part of fully unwinding means connecting with people too. I need to shed a few tears or laugh off some of my deeper thoughts and doubts with friends as well. People gathering at its best means people leave with tension removed from their shoulders and renewed strength in their demeanor.
It is about caring for others.
I also like to think of this as showing up for one another. I am so bad about getting caught up in my own life but shifting to a life with more people gathering is changing me. When I get together with other people and slow down enough in my mind to listen – truly listen – I become a better friend, sister, mom, daughter … human being. I remember to check-in, to support, to see things through other people’s eyes instead of only my lenses.
Listening to the Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast really spurred me on in my goal to be more intentional about gathering people together. But prior to this, people gathering had already taken on a new importance and meaning in my life after joining Noonday. I became a Noonday Ambassador last spring for many reasons – to make an impact; to be a force for positive change; and to bring dignified jobs to Noonday’s Artisan Partners; and, also, because I wanted deeper connections within my own community. I became a people gatherer and an encourager of people gathering in others as a Noonday Ambassador.
I see my Trunk Show Hostesses pour into their people and their people pour into them as they gather over a little food and drinks, all while playing with pretty, handmade Noonday pieces and connecting to our Artisan Partners across the globe. From these parties I see women reenergized and reminded of their own value and strength. I see women having fun. It is a wonderful way of people gathering I have the gift to be a part of.
This is the perfect time of year to gather people. We all want to feel valued and invited, so pick a spot, whether it be your home, a meeting for a cause you’re passionate about, your favorite store, or a new restaurant you want to try out, and just invite. Maybe schedules will not line up the first time and maybe it will take a while, but the value of people gathering is so worth the effort. Build connections and enjoy the goodness that comes from connecting and enjoying time spent together.