In college, I took a class called Building Community. We spent four months looking at the dynamics of a great community and were challenged with what it takes to create a sense of belonging. Every week we were faced with the question: if given the task of creating a placewhere people could feel at home, how would we do it? What might that look like? In other words, our task was to create an environment where people felt like they belonged to something significant.
Years after critiquing the reasons behind the methods of creating community, I never would have guessed a sense of belonging could be found in something as simple as one’s dishes. Pots, pans, cutlery, plates and cups are five simple things one can use to create a sense of belonging.
Moving away from my parents’ home wasn’t something done out of necessity. Moving out is something I had planned to do when I had finished college. So when all my college fees were paid off, I began to get things I would need once I lived on my own. This proved to be a wise move on my part. I didn’t spend a single day crafting a dining table out of cardboard boxes; I had everything I needed. At the end of “move-in” day, I had a fully furnished place to live.
Leading up to the big move, I slowly bought the things I needed. Scouring the weekly fliers, I was on the lookout for great sales. A complete pot-and-pan set for 50 percent off meant I could invest more money into a bedroom set. My birthday and Christmas gifts included things like tea towels and ladles for my kitchen. If people were replacing furniture, I’d barter with them for the old stuff. I distinctly remember working out a deal with my mother regarding cutlery.
She wanted to buy me a set of cutlery that had six of each item. Ideally, I wanted to have 12. The same went for dishes. I wanted to have two sets of plates, cups and bowls. What’s the reason you ask? I like to entertain. I thoroughly enjoy cooking for others. So when people come over to check out my new “pad,” I’d like to have the means to offer everyone a drink. If my friends want to bring their four kids, each person can have their own beverage.
As I built friendships with others at Alice Bisset Place, some of us took turns hosting the other for tea and coffee. When the holidays approached, we would plan dinner parties to commemorate the upcoming occasions. We’d take turns hosting the dinner, but because my kitchen was well stocked with supplies, sometimes the neighbors would ask me to bring a few extra plates as they would only have dishes for two or three, and not 10.
Getting together like this brings back memories of my college days. Sitting in a classroom, mulling over some of the best ways to create authentic community; exploring the what, and why for of each scenario. I look back on those days and think, why are we sitting in the classroom talking about this? It’s as simple as gathering our plates, cups and other utensils, inviting people over and enjoying one another’s company.
Now I want to ask: what are you waiting for. Put down the paper and start making a guest list for your next get together.