I believe the movement back to the greatest privilege of life starts around the table.
Years ago, I was living in Africa. I was four weeks out from coming back Stateside, and I was dreading leaving. Why? The “poor” of third world countries have a gift we don’t have – a life without first world demands. My experience with third world peoples is limited and just my own; I don’t claim to know third world realities as a whole. I realize there are things that we are blessed beyond words for, but when I lived among them, I believe they have us beat on valuing one of the greatest gifts of life: relationships.
I remember a beautiful Australian woman I was in Africa with asked if I was excited to go back home. I just cried. No, I wasn’t. You don’t realize the tremendous stress we live under in this country until you are stripped off it for a period of time. Limited internet, no bills, and a whole lot of just “being” together. Loving, learning, laughing and living. We would eat together for hours despite our conversations limited by language, and they were some of the best experiences.
My passion for the table started in an old farm house on Beaver Valley Road.
One of my favorite memories of my ma is of her cooking and her love of experiencing good food. This is a woman who will talk passionately of the soil in her garden, who will indulge wholeheartedly in fresh picked, dark red tomatoes with good bread and Bulgarian feta, who will laugh so hard she’ll slide off the couch, and who would encourage me to invite my friends over all summer to just hangout around the pool and would make us homemade pizza. When she would cook, she’d fill the house with Dinah Shore, Patsy Cline or The Tenors, sometimes pour herself a glass of White Zinfandel, and put her favorite pan on low heat. She would find what was in the refrigerator and create. This is where cooking became way more than food; it became an experience.
She would call me into the kitchen, ask me to taste the sauce she was making to see what I thought was missing. I would give her my opinion, and she would take it. She’d then call me back 10 minutes later to see what I thought now. We would do that a few times until we felt it was right. This is where I learned it was okay to experiment and make mistakes in the creative process.
Ten years ago, I was accidentally introduced to the profound potential of the table.
In my twenties, I was celebrating my birthday with about 15 people, some of whom I knew and a few of whom I did not, at Buffalo Wild Wings in Northern Illinois. When we went around the table to share how each person knew me, they shared how they had just met me the hour before. I loved it! This is where I learned the possibility of the wonderful sneakiness of the table to bring people together who may not any other way.
I had other dinner parties and helped manage big events over the next decade: Christmas Extaveganza’s of 2009 and 2010, Thankful Friends Dinner of 2009, and my own birthday party once I moved to KC, to name a few.
But I wanted to do more, and I hadn’t found anyone who truly “got me” in this way when I relocated to Kansas City eight years ago.
Then, a year and a half ago, I met Ricky and Whitney around their Epic Table.
Long story short, they decided to clear out their apartment living room in Hyde Park, and with board by board hoisted through their third story bedroom window, they built an 18-foot table, inviting anyone in the community to come. I immediately became a groupie. I came to almost every dinner. Brings tears to my eyes now, because for the first time, I found people who extravagantly did something audacious with the table on a consistent basis. They got it. They got me.
And at that time in my life the table became a life raft of hope and peace thrown to me. It was deeply healing for so many reasons, and I am forever grateful for their audacious decision to do something “crazy” and out-of-the-box.
A new season of Epic Table has begun.
In July, Ricky and Whitney hopped a plane and crossed an ocean to Bangladesh to volunteer for one of the world’s largest refugee camps in the world for the next year. They sold their apartment, and I took up the torch in Strawberry Hill to keep the movement going.
When I say you are welcome, I mean it.
I believe the table is a powerful thing: the way it nourishes us, builds community, fosters belonging, heals broken hearts, provokes meaningful interactions, and forces us to engage with those we wouldn’t in any other setting. It levels the playing field, and levels out our over-stressed nervous system. It is a place to be safe and seen. It encourages us be vulnerable, to believe the best in people, and to live a full and abundant life. We laugh often, eat always, grow beautifully, cry sometimes and just connect.
You don’t have to come to Epic Table, because I realize that’s a difficult thing for some people. If more comfortable for you, be encouraged to start a tradition of your own to meet with people around a table on a consistent basis. You will be so grateful you did. I also want you to know you are undeniably welcome around Epic Table.
Let me say that again: YOU ARE WELCOME.
The reason I shout Epic Table from the rafters so much is because I am tired of not living a full and abundant life, and I have a sneaky suspicion you feel the same way. Ricky and Whitney made space for something truly transformative to happen, and it is my joy and honor to carry on that legacy.
There is no catch, no bait and switch, no fine print. Epic Table was started with the understanding that if the proverbial and physical space is created, the rest takes care of itself. And that’s the only goal.
Come as you are. Come as you. Come.