“I know for sure that we each contribute to the whole of what it means to be a human on earth. The fullness of our humanity can be expressed only when we are true to ourselves. Your real job on earth is to become more of who you really are. To live to the highest degree what is pure, what is honest, what is natural, what feels like the real you.”-Oprah Winfrey
When I was a kid, I used to love setting the table for dinner each night. There usually were fourteen people (12 kids and my parents) at our table, give or take a few neighbor kids or girlfriends. It drove my mom crazy because I had to use the real napkins and make sure we had all the pieces in line for each place setting. Someone would have to do all those dishes because she didn’t believe in having a dishwasher. “Why would I need a dishwasher?” she would say. “I’ve got twelve.”
I knew intuitively at a very early age that there was power at the table and bringing people together. It was so much more fun if it felt like a celebration–who cared what we were serving! It was about creating a space for the spirit and the eyes for a beautiful vision. Flowers in the center and food on the table, I don’t know if anyone enjoyed it as much as I did. Even today, it is what I do for “fun.”
Fast forward about twenty years, and I was quickly picking up the vibe that all that “fussy stuff” was not necessary and a waste of time. Why not just buy everything prepared? Check the box. Yet making the world beautiful was how my spirit soared. Even as a working mom, I wanted to set these moments each night because it was the one time in the day away from the noise and the screens where I could share my love. Yet, I really struggled with this piece of myself. It seemed too weak and too traditional, so I often downplayed it.
The roads I have explored in search of creating “powerful change” outside of what I know to be true have been such lonely roads. There is this dominating vision of what has value in our society, and it often loses sight of the subtle ways we give and receive love. Somehow we trick ourselves into believing the battle and struggle is what it takes to get to the top and to have worth. When these moments are over, it is easy to feel like we hardly know ourselves. We wander and wonder, searching deep in our souls for purpose and reason to be. Yet, the answer is usually waiting there for us to re-discover it. It is something we have known all along but maybe forgot. It is what brings us joy and connection to life.
It is the little things that make a cherished life like making a simple dinner because it gives us joy to bring something meaningful to the table. The things we do that are easy sometimes seem like nothing when in actuality, they are everything. When find what comes natural to us, we find our inner nature–our fingerprint on life. I thought a lot about what was missing in the world that I had seen, and it was that sense of joy in coming together to share in something wonderful. It was what I knew as a kid to be important.
In exploring my thoughts over the past few years, I wrote about all that in The Civil Graces Project, but this week I have been thinking a lot about the word authentic and discovered I hadn’t included it in the list of the civil graces. When I was running, I knew I had to speak from my heart if I would ever be able to look myself in the eyes again. People were constantly saying I was authentic, but what were they seeing? It was so obvious I didn’t see it–it was the call to bring everyone to the table, and I had been doing that my whole life.
Looking to the origins of authentic, it is a combination of words, as most words are: autos “self” + hentes “doer, being, to accomplish, achieve.” Being authentic is when we accomplish being the self that we were meant to be. When we show up as the real deal and not some knock off listening outside for what is essential. I love reading when Oprah Winfrey decided to do her show in alignment with her authenticity, she totally transformed her life and business. She made more money and became more influential than ever before. While that wasn’t her main goal, changing lives was, and her ability to be authentic has allowed her to open doors for others. That wouldn’t have been possible had she gone any other way or listened to what others were telling her to do.
I love making a contribution to the world, and I love the idea of making a lasting impact to help the human race. That desire is what led me to leave my security and run for something I had a minimal guarantee of winning. But going into that process revealed my authentic love and taught me something that is shaping my life as I move forward today. We have to remember who we are at our core and not discount anything based on other’s impressions of its value. We never know how our lives touch another. It’s okay to reach beyond, take what you love, and bring meaning to it.
That little girl who used to set the table each night is now a woman seeking a way to set the table that the world might come together. Why the table? It is where we can be nourished and healed. It is a place I know that is filled with magic and invitation. It is the place where we can fully be ourselves and bring our authentic gifts together. We need a space of healing and a home where we make that more perfect union for all. I have been practicing all this time to make that a reality, and I hope you will join me at the table!
Photo credit: Vince Moro of our gathering with the Gesu School at Chadds Peak Farm–one of my favorite memories at the table.