Tailgates, pumpkin spice and still-90-plus-degree Arkansas weather can only mean one thing: Fall is on its way. Frankly, tailgates underwhelm me. Pumpkin spice is gross, in my humble opinion. And, though I’ve lived in The Natural State for 21 years now, I’m still not used to the weather trickery.
While winter is my favorite season, fall is still endearing. I might not be a sucker for fall’s cliche staples, but I most certainly am a sucker for walking across the field to my grandparents house for our fall family gatherings. (That’s not cliche, right?)
For as long as I can remember, our family gatherings, and I’m sure yours, too, have been divided — divided between the adult table and the kid table. I’m 21, but I still sit where I was planted years before: at the far right end of the bar attached to the island. My brother has moved himself to the adult table, but he’s engaged now, so maybe his move is warranted.
Adults and kids tables have always been a staple of family gatherings. So, why is sitting at the kids table such a big deal? Why is dignity and humility at risk?
Is it possible that for kids at Thanksgiving, it’s not just smaller chairs and smaller tables, but a symbol of what it means to be left out, to be disregarded, to be lessened?
As candied sweet potatoes made by Aunt Suzie are passed around and Mamaw’s remarkable stuffing becomes the center of conversation for the 40th year running, kids across the dining room are lessened to conversations about the brussel sprouts and what they want for Christmas. And perhaps that’s OK; they’re just kids, after all.
But consider this.
Is it possible that for our brothers and sisters in the height of the Civil Rights Movement, it wasn’t just not getting a burger and fries, but rather a symbol of what it means to be accepted, to be equal, to be human?
As protestors took to the lunch counters, sizzling burgers, crinkle-cut fries and large glasses of sweet tea became spectators to people demanding basic rights. The setting no longer had anything to do with wanting a meal. The diners were no longer just enjoying their lunch break. The store owners no longer just managed their “fine establishments.”
Suddenly, restaurants became a battleground, diners became heckling spectators and store owners became rights violators — all for a chance for a spot at the table.
I’m not complaining about my spot at the Thanksgiving table, to be sure. If I wanted a spot at the adults’ table, I’m sure I could secure one, but my location is prime. The Thanksgiving feast is spread across the kitchen island where I sit, so I’m within a spoon’s distance of my favorites: creamed corn, fried okra, turkey, gravy and homemade bread. The list goes on.
While I’m not complaining about my spot at the table, I know people at other tables are not so lucky. As conversation surrounding social justice mounts more than it seems it ever has, what’s the next not-so-welcoming table in America?
Is it the stage and pulpit in your hometown church, which creaks with the words of those who have only “traditionally” been qualified to speak God’s word? Is it the witness stand of a courtroom where your testimony is drowned out by the color of your skin? Is it the workplace where you become the receiving end of all jokes simply because of who you love?
Consider this, too.
Is it possible that, when Jesus asked his disciples to join him for a final meal, it wasn’t just a time to say goodbye, but rather a chance to show forgiveness, to display love, to remembrance of him?
It seems a spot at the table has always been something more coveted than it might seem.
If it seems like your spot is taken, broken, damaged, jaded, misrepresented, misplaced or forgotten, please know this: you’ll always have a spot at my table.