There’s always room at the table by Melissa

A few months ago we celebrated a freedom birthday (which is a regular occurrence). But this particular freedom birthday turned out to be a very bizarre celebration. There were lots of other things going on that particular day. There was a work man who’d come and was installing a new sewing machine (and making lots of noise while doing it). And then right before the celebration Beth had to run an errand to the police station. As Beth and one of the Sari Bari women were walking down the street, they ran into a woman who was an acquaintance . . . and she is also deaf. She ended up coming back with them to Sari Bari. She jumped right in, animatedly telling her story to anyone who would “listen” even though our knowledge of Bengali sign language is limited at best! During the freedom birthday, we listened to many stories of freedom. Each woman saying what she’s learned or gained, or how her life is different since coming to Sari Bari. We cut cake and ate snacks. We celebrated. There was banging in the background as the workman kept on working, and the chaos of a woman we didn’t know, and couldn’t communicate with very well. (an then on her way out she tried to take a pair of shoes with her!) There was a posture of embrace and openness and welcome. There’s always room for one more at the celebration.

Shortly after that we went to a wedding. The daughter of one of the Sari Bari women was getting married and we were all invited. It was a great night. A great party. To walk in and see all the Sari Bari women dressed to the nines. We hung out with our friends. We laughed, we ate, we celebrated. And then all of a sudden we were sitting around the table eating. And one of our friend’s husbands was at the table with us. In some ways I know a bit too much about him to be happy to be sharing a meal with him, but in other deep, true ways it was beautiful to share a meal and celebration with him. It was amazing to sit around the table and joke and laugh, and to see everyone interacting with one another laughing, having fun, and celebrating.

And then to top off the evening, we noticed other guests. We were a gathering of outcasts. There were men and women who we would consider to be oppressors, “the bad guys,” and there were cross-dressers (who, in many ways are considered outcasts even among outcasts), and some of the cross-dressers had 5 o’clock shadows (one had a moustache). Sex workers and former sex workers. And foreigners who think we fit in much better than we usually do. We were a motley crew. Folks coming from all different stages and seasons- of life. But there we were together. Celebrating. Each welcomed into the celebration – regardless of where we came from, or what baggage we brought with us. It points to something deeper and truer – that there is always room at the table. There is always room for one more at the celebration, and if I am not fully engaged in the celebration, it is because of the state of my own heart, not any external circumstances.

There is always room at the table. There is always room for one more.

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