I stand alone in the middle of breakfast things.
I think I am conspicuous, sidestepping.
Unable to make up my mind whether to turn right or left or run from the room crying.
I stand in the middle of eggs and spilled creamer and burnt coffee, dumb, staring at tables christmas- decked- holly, greens swagging white cloths twirled around that wide ribbon the Narnia woman so wanted to change into an angel.
I see a lady I’d met a couple of times at the far end of the room and I somehow manage to plod toward her.
I plod like a prizefighter knocked senseless but doesn’t know it.
My hello comes ragged and I do not meet her gaze lest she see.
Lest she see me wrestle the weeping to the ground.
This woman who sits across from me now is Irish and a storyteller and I am happy to let her sweep me inside her stories for a few minutes. I need time to breathe down the lump in my throat.
She tells me she is a backslider.
I eke out a whisper: Aren’t we all?
I scan the big room and the small turn-out.
Even after what I had just encountered with the Narnia woman, I am sliding backward.
Sliding back to the dust and futility of human strength.
Chosen a different venue?
I feel thin.
The woman is telling me the story of living next door to Alonzo Fields, the chief butler to four presidents.
He new Churchill well.
Truman was his favorite.
He retired his post and lived under segregation humble.
He gave stories and kindness to his daughter’s little white friend. My storyteller.
One day she asked him a question.
Mr. Fields, what was it like, working in the White House, meeting all those famous people?
He answered simple.
And without taking a breath she says,
You know, like what you’re doing here today.
For these people.
No matter who comes to the table, rich, poor, backslider or Narnia dweller.
No matter how many sit in the chairs.
No matter if they thank you or try to give you money.
No matter if you are tired or think you could have done more.
Set a nice table.
Jesus whispers. I have set a table. A banqueting table, my beloved.