Recently, I was at a function and didn’t know a lot of people there. And “my people” weren’t there. 

You might be wondering what I mean by “my people,” but you have them, too. They are the folks who know you—as in, really know you. And you know them, too. You’ve shared good and bad and maybe even ugly times together. You’ve laughed and probably cried together, and walked each other through the stuff that makes life what it is. 

So, there I was, without “my people,” and as I was trying to find someone in this big room—full of mostly strangers—to sit with that morning, the thought struck me that I couldn’t really recall a time when I’ve had the assurance of a saved seat. 

There was no one here thinking to themselves, “Oh, I’ll just save this seat for Belinda.” And mostly that’s fine. But let’s be honest: it’s also not fine. It’s exhausting, having to ask if there is room for you at the table. Because I think at our core, we all need that assurance that someone cares enough about us, specifically us, that they make sure there is a seat at the table for us. 

And if we were all vulnerable and honest, we’d probably acknowledge that at some stage it has stung deeply when we’ve walked into a space and there doesn’t seem to be a place for us.

New Tables

Now here’s my second thought. 

If the reality is that there isn’t a seat saved for me, and I feel that, then there is a strong likelihood that a whole bunch of other people have walked into the same room, whatever room they’ve walked into—physically, it won’t necessarily be the same “room” for any of us, but I’m sure you know what I mean—and they’ve felt the same way. 

So, what if I just set up a new table, a table for all the folks who no one is saving a seat for? The solo runners, the ones that don’t “fit,” the ones who have been explicitly told there is no seat for them elsewhere, the ones who look a little different and think a little differently and find joy in strange things. 

What if all of us who walk into rooms and there is no seat saved for us create our own tables and open them up with saved seats for all the others who missed out on having a seat saved for them? And what if we endeavoured to make sure that there was always at least one empty seat saved for the whosoever who might walk through the door in need of a place to rest? 

It’ll be rugged. Lonely at times. Probably messy. But the more I think about it, the more I think I’d prefer to sit with those who were overlooked and forgotten than the fortunate people who always have a place. 

A Place for All 

In one of the stories in the Bible, Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32 New Living Translation). 

It’s one of my favourite Jesus analogies—that a tiny seed can grow into a tree for the birds to come and find the space prepared for them, to nest and shelter, with branches large enough to provide shade for all. A tree so big that it also casts a nice safe shadow under which others can take refuge—the ones that don’t have brilliant plumage and maybe can’t reach as high as others might. 

If Jesus described the kingdom of heaven like that, as a space for all to find a place to call home, to belong, shouldn’t our spaces, our community places, our places of worship, our workplaces, be the same? Shouldn’t they all be places in which anyone, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what their lives look like today, can find a place to belong? 

I want to be part of something where the doors are wide open and accessible to all—where everyone, especially those on the margins, know they have a seat at the table. 

That, to me, feels a lot like the kingdom of heaven that Jesus talked about.

Reprinted from Salvos Magazine, May 13, 2023

Photo: Jasmina/


On Friday, July 5, 2024, William Vipond said:

Really enjoyed this article as my wife and I have been and to some degree now have experience this.

On Thursday, July 4, 2024, Arlene Holland said:

I have felt this discomfort many times. We are a people that have our clicks, or always with friends. I can imagine how people feel walking into a church meal or similar thing. I am guilty. But I’m going to work on seeking those who are new or looking alone. I pray God will give me boldness and a brave spirit to step into seeking the comfort of people I hardly know and dare I say it, people I’d rather avoid.

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