For almost twelve years, my house has hosted a weekly potluck on Monday nights. We’ve hosted it every Monday night, without fail, even if it falls on a holiday. Some nights we’ve put a pot of food on the counter and a note on the door, but it’s always happened. The other night I gave this talk to the people who showed up this week:
“You’re part of a movement in creating accepting spaces. It’s not perfect, but we have the intention of welcoming everyone who comes to this space. There are enough of us who live here that some of us can step back and take a break when it becomes too much. There were a few years there where I had to go hide out in my room, and it was important that I gave myself permission to do that, so that when I came back downstairs I could really be present for people.
Many of us are uncomfortable around difference, and it takes work to build skills in acceptance and not rush it. There’s a fear of being stuck talking to a person, and part of the skill is learning how to leave when it becomes too much. Part is in being straightforward when a person does something that doesn’t work, making room for their feelings, and making it clear that they are still welcome. We haven’t had to ask people to leave very often, but if we do, it’s always with a clear option of how they could return (not drinking alcohol, alternating attending with another person who is uncomfortable with them, etc.)
I like to find ways to engage that meet the person where they are at. With children, I like to follow their lead and drop my adult preconceptions about how we should play. Music has been a great way to connect, and I’ll try to learn songs to sing with people, regardless of their ability to hold a tune! And it’s okay to disappoint people by stepping back when you need a break.
How can you create more accepting spaces in your life? Would it be a regular event? Don’t try to take on too much at once: I wouldn’t start a weekly event unless you have a bunch of other people to take turns with you. Or would it be just reaching out to someone with the trust that their presence in your life would give something back to you if you work to build that relationship?”