The table was piled with food. Crispy seven layer salad, cheesy broccoli, savory fried chicken, creamy fried potatoes and so many different casseroles I lost count. The desserts earned their own table and consisted of many chocolate dishes piled with cool whip, along with cookies, cakes, and pies. It was a beautiful site to behold. The gym where the food was laid out had transformed from a place of sweating play to a place of gathering and worship. Strong arms set up tables. Chairs were squeezed together to make room for as many people as possible. Our church had a potluck dinner about every month and I looked forward to it like it was Christmas.
Even before the line was formed, I would spend my time in the church kitchen watching the ladies lay out the food. Old hands prepared nourishment for the young. Young mothers prepared food for their men and children. It was a bustle of activity you could not watch without anticipation. The air was full of love, joy, and togetherness. With the smell of food in the air and the kitchen made cozy warm from the ovens, I watched my church family work together towards one goal. When we were all finally gathered in the gym the pastor thanked the Lord for the food he had so lovingly provided, for the hands who had labored over it, and for a place to gather in freedom.
Standing in line, surveying the spread, I chose my first course. These special Sunday’s I liked to pretend I was the queen of England. I would start with my favorite food-the seven-layer salad. Oh, how I loved every bite, so different from the last. After, I would have my second course-meat and potato, veggie and buttery, soft bread. The last course would be a casserole and then I would be free to enjoy dessert. Dessert was never just one thing but a plate full of several different small pieces of each dish-my favorite part of the whole meal. On these special Sunday’s our parents never told us what we had to eat. We had freedom to choose. It was wonderful.
We were allowed to sit wherever we wanted. Usually, I sat with friends and enjoyed our silly stories and games. Sometimes, however, I would sit with one of those women who I had watched make the food. There were a few in the church who were like grandparents to me. I loved them. As I sat by them, relishing every bite of my meal, they would ask me questions about the happenings of my young life. They talked to me as if I mattered. They cared.
Church potlucks have sadly seemed to go out of style. Now that I am grown I realize what I loved most about sitting down and eating with my church family was the feeling of community and knowing I belonged to something larger and grand. Praying together. Nourishing together. Those old hands are now a cherished example of wisdom I am trying to glean. I was fed in that community until I was full. Fed and filled in many different ways.