of tea and open doors
We started sending invitations:
“Come and drink tea, come and sit, open doors for you this weekend!”
Soon, they became habit and needed, these small college gatherings, every one with their own story and mix of souls. We then welcomed friends of friends, and always (bravely) a particular boy or two we’d like to know better. Over time, the regulars grew to know they’d probably end up with a floor seat, or a center of the rug seat, or a closer-than-we’ve-ever-sat-together seat. But there were no cares, no weights of time (other than the leave-by-midnight rule for the gents), and no knowing who would knock. Those who never drank tea any other time would do it tonight. Those who had too much homework would at least peek in and meet the new faces. Those who were timid in normal circles felt safe in this one. There were always stories, laughter, and antics to take in. It could have been too much noise and chaos, but our mugs, slowly sipped, kept everyone anchored and together and quiet inside.
Other times, we’d theme the night. Those tended to be more sparsely attended; perhaps we were too eager and silly. But they held their own importance and helped us not take ourselves so seriously. 80s dance night was the least popular, but that didn’t keep us from living it up and running around campus to share the neon with those who had better, more responsible things to do. The redneck themed party was a bit more successful. One guy dressed up, although he did come wearing some overalls we had just seen in the women’s section of the Salvation Army earlier that day. Maybe clothing sections don’t matter to rednecks. I wouldn’t know.
College kept us busy, kept us studying. We needed these nights to lay aside the books and grades and enjoy simply being. Being here. Being family. Being welcomed in, as we were, no exclusions. We were occupied with becoming grown-up, and here is where could at once practice it, and still dance in the happiness of being young and not knowing what we were doing. I pray it was a gracious haven for any who ever came. It was for me.
Maybe these spots of fellowship even sparked something lifelong and good. One admired fellow began to come when we invited him, and soon one of us fell in love and is now sharing life and hospitality and tea with him every day. (Heidi and John, you are sorely missed.)
Don’t let it die, friends. It may look different than it did, because our lives ever shift. It may be harder, as I’m finding, to start over in a brand new place. But we need open doors for the opening of hearts.