Michael and I are fairly new to our parish. We have been there for a few months now and have tried out bible study, the social media group, bought pies for a fundraiser, donated to the Christmas gift project and have a general sense of how Sunday mornings flow. The biggest challenge has been in meeting people and remembering their names. (We are seriously thankful for name tags, patient smiles and fall back on saying “Heyyyy!” when somebody greets us by name and we cannot remember if they are Brenda or Barbara; although I think I finally have those two sorted out.) People have been so kind as we figure out our place in this new community, whether we remember their names or not, and always invite us to participate in various activities. Most recently we attended game night, which is what I am excited to tell you about.
Frankly, Michael and I are not the people who play a lot of games. This could be for a few reasons. First, Michael plays to win and doesn’t give me spousal immunity when competition is under way. (If I told you about the Parcheesi game that almost drove us to divorce court, you would understand.) Second, I cannot take the stress of certain games. Take Monopoly for example. The last time I played, the table was so hot that I divested all of my property investments, made charitable contributions to all of the other players and sat down with a bowl of popcorn while everybody argued over utilities and rent on Park Place. (Can’t we all build the neighborhoods up equally and support community growth instead of inflating rent? Seriously, Monopoly and I just don’t jive.) Maybe now you can see why this was an odd choice for us; choosing to spend time with people we don’t know playing games that we don’t like…it’s odd, right? I know. Anyway, after convincing Michael that we only needed to go once and that it was a nice way to meet other people, we signed up to play.
Our pot luck contribution in hand, we walked into the church hall at the appointed time and it was buzzing. Seriously, the place was packed, which was the first surprise of the night because we expected just a few handfuls of players. Second surprise, people from our outreach ministry (feeding folks with food insecurity and/or experiencing homelessness) were hanging out. The third surprise was that we were instructed to sit at tables with people we didn’t know (obviously not a big problem for us) and then rotate tables every 20 minutes to play a new game (yes! that meant no Monopoly…woohoo!).
After having dinner, chatting about “The Reverend Mother’s World Famous Chicken Nuggets” and eating a plate of the best carbs ever (hello, mac-n-cheese), it was time to play. Michael went in one direction and I went in another. For 20 minutes, I played Candy Land with a savvy third grader who had a lot to tell me about the world, while besting me 5 games to 2. My next round I was with our outreach family members playing Tenzi. We were laughing as the dice were rolling and one women was having the best luck ever. Beside her she had a little stash of drinks and some food to take for later, however she paid no attend to it as she swept every game and boasted about her magic touch. I think if we had stayed open all night, she would have kept on going! The energy in her eyes and excitement each time she won was priceless. Another new friend was hoping to find some work and talked about how there is no job too big or small for him to help with. For the night though, he was just really happy to have a hot meal and people to spend time with. There were three other guys I hung out with before they left the church. They were laser focused on making sure to get to their favorite spot to sleep when it gets cold; it’s over near the library and has some sense of shelter from the wind. As we shook hands, they promised to take care and come back soon. “Have fun playing tonight,” one of them said. “We really just came to hang out for a little while, get warm and have some food with you guys.”
As we drove home, three hours later, Michael and I were totally aware of why God nudged us to go to game night. It was bigger than connecting with parishioners (which was really wonderful, by the way) or getting out of our comfort zone. Game night was about serving those who needed love, warmth, companionship and laughter. It was going beyond simply helping those in greater need by delivering a meal. We were called to be truly present by bringing love forward, through our own vulnerability and shared humanity, as we all play together in the game of life.