So, I’ve been having this dream.
And in the dream, there’s a long table stretching out under an open sky. The heavens are coated with stars, so many that we don’t need to light the ivory tapers that I twisted into those crystal holders. The table is covered in a white cloth that blows in the summer breeze, and all the people are laughing and carrying on. I carry pottery heaped high and steaming to that long rectangle in the grass. My hands smell like garlic and the air smells like lilacs.
I’m not wearing shoes, because I want to feel the grass between my toes when I walk back and forth to the kitchen.
The little boys are burping. Some of the women are dressed in sequined gowns, like they had gotten all gussied for some ball to be held in some marbled room somewhere. Sitting beside them? New friends who came wearing their dirty, threadbare T-shirts with screenprinted sayings like, “Go Wildcats” or “Life is Good.” There’s a Mercedes parked next to a rusty Pinto. I nearly trip over a pair of crutches by the head of the table.
Everyone got invited, and almost everyone came. In the dream, we had taped a sign to a barrel and rolled it out to the middle of Main Street. “Come One and All!” The poor, the lame, the drunk, the rich, the holy. The naughty kid, the valedictorian, the blind guy, the beggar, and the CEO.
A sinner would be serving the dinner. And so I kept bringing out potatoes, and green beans, and filet mignon, and there was more than enough for everyone. And everyone was more than enough.
In the dream, everyone is barefoot, and all the bare feet are under one long table, and that’s the part that makes me cry every time.
So on Sunday, the pastor read from Luke’s Gospel. He quoted Jesus: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”
Sitting in the pew, I thought about my dream.
And then I remembered it — how my already dream came true, only I wasn’t the server at all. I was the guest.
It was January in Haiti. I wasn’t sitting under a star-studded sky, but under a metal roof of a tiny hut that leaked when it rained. I sat with my family. And there was another woman who made the meal. She rose before dawn to cook over an outdoor fire, holding her skirt in her fist while she stirred.
This was a modern-day Babette’s feast. It cost our hosts everything they had, and cost us nothing: a portrait of grace and the essence of the faith I profess.
I remember now, how, I didn’t think I should be sitting there. Like it was too much. I remember, too, how we had the most meaningful conversations around that plastic table with plastic chairs and a secondhand tablecloth. But the thing was, most of us couldn’t speak the same language.
I still can’t get over the grace of it all — the extravagance of the feast. I know now that God had pushed back the curtain a little bit, to give us a glimpse of heaven.
And we were all barefoot.
Last photo: The dinner prepared for us by some friends in Haiti.