As we enter into this week of gratitude I am overwhelmed with the beauty of the Westcore. The beauty of the lives lived in the homes that make up our neighborhood. The beauty of the congregations that gather in our churches. The stunning beauty of our lives intersecting with one another. This past Thursday we gathered as a neighborhood to celebrate, to celebrate our neighborhood and the people who make it what it is. We paused and came together in thanks for our many blessings. The evening was beautiful. But it was more than just the two hours on Thursday that were so profound for me. As I watched the evening unfold I was struck by the unspoken work of art that had been crafted and was being created all around me.
On a September evening, after a long day of work, a day full of meetings and emails, deadlines and phone calls, school lunches and soccer practice, a small group of neighbors and church members came together at Nuestra Casa to begin process of creating the annual Thanksgiving Potluck. These dedicated individuals committed themselves to the work of setting the table for 200-300 neighbors to come together in a meaningful way. They committed themselves to the work of creating the space for neighbors to break bread together, to share a meal and a conversation. They committed themselves to putting flesh on the idea that “life is better together.”
This small team of planners began to grow as neighbors and parishioners accepted the invitation to participate in making this evening a reality. Every one was needed. Every volunteer significant. Neighbors began going door to door delivering the invitation to each and every home in the Westcore to join us on November 16. People started signing up to cook, to serve, to welcome.
On the Saturday before the event seventeen turkeys filled the trunk of our fearless kitchen king. Through the next coming days the turkeys were delivered all around the neighborhood and churches. The neighborhood warmed and the air smelled of Thanksgiving as turkeys roasted in ovens throughout the Westcore.
Wednesday evening the floor covering in the gym was rolled out and the details began to take shape. With the sun barely breaking through the clouds, five neighbors with a borrowed trailer and truck made their way out to New Holland St. There they loaded up the tables and chairs to accommodate 320 neighbors. Two trips later this same group unloaded and began setting up all of the tables and chairs. Meanwhile, yet another truck full of tables was being delivered and set up from New Community 4th Reformed Church.
Early in the afternoon the kitchen at the Boys and Girls Club began to hum as volunteers from Maple Avenue Ministries began their symphony in the kitchen. With precision and grace they readied the meal. Neighbor after neighbor, church member after church member brought forth their contribution to the feast while the kitchen staff deftly wove each dish into the whole.
As the kitchen buzzed the volunteers from the Boys & Girls Club turned a gym into a dining room. Hanging banners and setting tables the space was transformed with the colors of children’s creations.
At 6:00 neighbors began to arrive. Name tags were filled out, coats were checked. Teen volunteers from the Boys & Girls Club greeted the guests and showed them to tables. A prayer of gratitude was offered and the meal began.
The food tables were full of dishes prepared by neighbors and church members for neighbors and church members. The hands that served and the smiles that greeted each neighbor and church member were the hands and faces of neighbors and church members.
As the tables filled the air filled with the sounds of conversations. Beauty unwrapped as neighbors met one another. They put a face and a name with that house across the street or on the corner. Neighbors who were strangers or neighbors who had known each other for a lifetime all got to know each other just a little bit better. Relationships started and relationships strengthened. A neighborhood and community stronger for having shared a meal together.
When the evening concluded all pitched in to clean up and tear down. But the beauty of all that was poured into this evening, the mosaic of volunteers, the conversations had and relationships built these things are forever woven into the fabric of the Westcore and will continue to bring beauty to our neighborhood long after the last piece of turkey is eaten and table returned. These are the bricks that continue to build Westcore into the strong vibrant neighborhood that we love.