The Table

There is a group of Charlottesville friends who have met for breakfast, somewhere between 7:00 and 7:15, every morning for over 25 years. I think these are the coolest people in town. They’ve outlasted multiple dives, moving from one to another after old haunts call it quits. The group began when several strangers found themselves, again and again, at the same coffee shop at the same hour. They figured they should make it official and formed “the breakfast club.” They’ve welcomed spouses to the circle, embraced retirements and job changes and danced the night away as they’ve married off their kids. I told one of the ladies I wanted to come and sit with them a few mornings so I could write a profile article on them. I’d sell the piece, but mainly it’s a ruse. I just want an excuse to pull up a chair at that table and pretend I belong.

When I think of my retiring years, I have several images. One of them is a group of old geezers, of which I am proudly one, at the same cafe every morning with the same group of scruffy cohorts. The fellas around the table are friends I have now, only in the future I’ve got us all pegged for living in the same neighborhood. We sit at the same outdoor table drinking from a french press. We laugh and tell stories and quote a little poetry. We talk about how insane and foolish and marvelously beautiful the world is. We talk, as we do even now, about the women we love and who have been kind (and crazy) enough to love us for so many years.

At that table, we experience a grace too many never know: we belong, and we like who we are – and we rest in the goodness of knowing others like who we are every bit as much.┬áHelen Simonson describes it right: “They are a motley and ragged bunch … but they are what is left when all the shallow pretense is burned away.”

The younger guys and gals, zipping in for a latte to go and frantically fiddling with their phones (or some bedeviled futuristic contraption) while they shift anxiously in line, eventually begin to notice us. Each morning, they rush in, and each morning, we’re just passing the time, watching the world race by. Soon enough, as they strap themselves back into their Audis for their dash to the office, they fantasize about receiving an invite to what they have now secretly christened The Table.


19 Replies to “The Table”

  1. Winn,you know I love this post! I want that experience of community now! As I ended my decade of being “20-something”,I watched God transform me from a loner to a seeker of community. I’m still an introvert,but I love the thought of meeting with people to share stories,discuss symbolism in literature and music, and talk about love,faith and hope. I’m still looking for my community. But I have a great feeling because I’ve met people like you through the Internet and I’ve imagined sitting at a table. Unfortunately most of the people live far away from me.Though some of the people I’ve met are just like me,some aren’t. And I enjoy that too. I want the type of table you talk about and of course I yearn for the type of Table the Bible talks about. I’d love to sit with you at both of them one day!

  2. This makes me think immediately of the chapter “The Way of the Table” in The Jesus Life. Can I send you a copy? What address? Thanks for the good images here. Very true and warm.

  3. Your words are a beacon in a dark place! I LOVE this and I am, or rather, God is growing up a community of people like that around me. Thank you so much for your words, and your kind compassionate heart. PEACE!

    1. I’ve always liked those old lighthouses; I’ll take it. Glad you have those friends gathered round you. Hold on to ’em.

  4. I always dream of finding that group of people. In fact, I used to dream of moving to a college town, imagining that it would be easier to find thoughtful people sitting at coffee shops. But I’m still right here. In the Midwestern suburbs. Where people come and go and rarely slow down enough to sit.

    Maybe in retirement I’ll find that group. From what I can tell, they aren’t at the coffee shop. They’re at Hardees.

    1. Hardees and McD’s. Those are good spots to find them, for sure. I’ve lived in college towns for 12 of the last 15 years (and grew up in one). I think there are often more nooks and crannies in places like this (or downtowns or little villages that have have a strong identity of place and community). However, there’s plenty of pretentiousness here, as everywhere. And plenty of hurry. I think you have to create it anywhere, but you probably do need a soul or two to create it with you. I bet you’ll gather them around you, eventually.

  5. I’m actually in the process of writing a story called The Table based on the same theme about a group of guys who’ve been meeting at Jamestown Coffee Company in Lexington, SC for years.

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