by Mary LoVerde
I learned an important lesson about what the world needs now. Here’s how it went:
My childhood friend, Jackie and her husband, Matt, were in town visiting their daughter. I invited them for dinner for the upcoming Saturday night.
It was a cold, snowy evening and the roads were an icy mess with poor visibility. My lovely friends (whom my boyfriend, Greg, had never met) drove for a nail-biting 90 minutes to get to our home.
You know those themed dinner parties where you play a game to figure out who the murderer is? Well, that evening I invented a new game called, “I Forgot You Were Coming for Dinner Tonight!”
Here’s how I played it:
First, I got up on the actual party day and totally forgot what day it was. I’d flown home late the night before from a weeklong business trip. My plan was to spend part of the day fine-tuning the menu and to then shop first thing in the morning for tomorrow’s dinner party.
In an unusually lazy mood I stayed in bed until 12:30 pm, reading and doing crossword puzzles. I nixed showering, fixing my hair or wearing makeup from my to-do list. I did chores until 4:30 and then decided to nap.
I slept for a couple of hours and did not wake up until I heard the doorbell ring.
Greg opened the front door to two people he did not recognize. Next thing I know he’s in our bedroom and I’m saying, “What do you mean, ‘Your friends are here?’ No, they are coming tomorrow night.” I leapt out of bed when he replied, “Well, they’re in the living room right now holding a bottle of wine.” A sick realization spread through my whole body that I was totally wrong about the date.
My mind raced. It would take 30 minutes to get to a restaurant in this terrible weather, and we could expect at least an hour wait or more on a Saturday night without reservations. To make matters worse we’d been gone a week so there was next to nothing to eat in the house.
At this point “the game” became a religious experience:
- I hoped my guests didn’t hear me say, “HOLY SH*T!” as I threw on my clothes.
- I looked in the mirror and thanked Jesus that my hair didn’t look as bad after two sleep cycles as I’d feared.
- I gave praise to the Lord that Greg had gotten a haircut at the last minute that afternoon and on the way home he’d stopped to buy some grocery staples.
- I lifted my eyes up to the heavens in gratitude that he thinks ground beef, chopped salad and fresh mushrooms are staples
- I walked to the pantry and said silently, “Dear Buddha, please manifest a jar of spaghetti sauce on the shelf.”
- I found a bottle of wine in the storage room that was brought by a previous guest. I honored this as a miracle almost as big as the wedding at Cana where water was turned into wine.
- I recited to myself the parable about the fishes and the loaves.
So I threw the table top together, poured us all a glass of wine, and toasted “Bon appetit, everyone!” We enjoyed fun, interesting conversation, and I felt so happy that my guests took a chance and stayed. (The game works best if you have lovely people whom you find to be charming, funny and compassionate. It also helps if they are pretty hungry so they will eat whatever you serve them.)
I went to bed smiling that night and woke up the next day thinking, “WOW! That was some crazy dream. I better get up and get ready for the party tonight…”
So why is this piece titled, “What the world needs now?” Because it was absolutely one of the most fun dinner parties I’ve ever hosted. The key ingredient in the dinner menu was grace. Greg and my guests gave me grace for being human. They laughed with me not at me. Matt and Jackie were relaxed, sat at the counter eating cheese and crackers and drinking the wine they brought, chatting me up like nothing was wrong. And after the first 15 minutes of mind-numbing, frantic, emergency menu planning I, too, relaxed and we had a ball. It was their graciousness, their vivre et laisser vivre attitude that set the tone and allowed me to redeem myself. I doubt any of us have ever been so grateful for salad and spaghetti.
This evening stood in stark contrast to what happens so often. The world seems very lacking in grace right now. One misstep and social media blows up. One misunderstood tweet, one heart-felt opinion that is in opposition to ours, one honest mistake- BAM! The storm of judgment comes raining down. While it may be true that there are plenty of wrongs to right and hate mongers to deal with, the vast majority of us are just doing the best we can in the to-be-expected imperfect way. And most of us could sure use a little grace.
I learned it’s really not that hard to adjust my attitude. The following week my accountant called to say she had made an error on my taxes causing a $100 penalty, which she would cover. My client missed a conference call, and an e- retailer shipped me the wrong-sized item. I reminded myself of the new dinner party game I had recently invented and sang, “What the world needs now is grace, sweet grace. It’s the thing that there’s just too little of…
Bon appetite, everyone!