The local youth drop in at our church for students in grades 6-12 started again last week after breaking for the summer. Alongside all the activities available for the students, we provide an afternoon snack and a hot meal that we all sit down to eat together.
Today was my day to cook. Today was also a little bit of a mess. I worked. I had a doctor’s appointment. I had to get labs done. I spent a lot of time in the car. I shopped for a few needed items for dinner.
By 3 pm (my crash time lately) I was done. I was hot. (I’m always hot.) I was tired. My feet hurt. My tummy hurt. I was a bit cranky. But I was present.
As 18 teenage boys started to trickle into the community room after school, things get loud. They laugh at the most obnoxious “jokes.” They’re a little smelly.
However, as I prepared and served and tidied up after dinner, I heard things. I heard comments on how good things smelled. I heard concerns about post-secondary choices. I heard questions directed towards me like “Did you have a good summer?” and “Do you think I grew?” I heard pleases, and thank yous, and groans about feeling full. I even heard a belch.
I didn’t have any heart-to-heart, deep meaningful conversations. However, I realised that these teenage boys trust me (us) enough to keep showing up. They are comfortable and make themselves at home. They are polite despite they’re obnoxiousness. They laugh with us (and at us.) They share tidbits and glimpses of what’s important to them. They make us a family each Wednesday night – with different members of the family around the table each week.
If making spaghetti and garlic bread is all that it takes to show we care, if some video games, a hot meal, and some hours from our day build bridges, if our listening skills in the little things lead to bigger discussions in the future, then sign me up. I’d rather my actions speak louder than words and show we love than merely just saying we do. My acts of service – your acts of service – make dinner more than a meal.