Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to the art of entertaining? I don’t mean fancy parties where people dress up and act all muckety mucky. I mean the kind of entertaining that’s spontaneous and easy. Like I say, “Hey, we’re grilling burgers tonight, do you want to come over for dinner?” And the reply is “Sounds great. What do you want me to bring?” Then a few weeks later, that person asks us over. Or you call someone up in the morning and say, “Hey, want to come over for tea or coffee and just chat?” And that someone says, “I’d love to.” A few days later, you’re out getting your mail and that someone sees you and says, “I’ve got a good bottle of wine open, wanna swing by for a drink?”
Remember when moms used to talk over fences to each other? Yeah, they were probably gossiping, but they were talking. Remember those days? I do. I also remember having lots of spontaneous gatherings, small and large, up until a few years ago. Now? Now I have to organize every detail and try a lot harder to make connections. People are busy. People are on the go. People go to work, drive home, park in their garages, go inside and never leave their house again. Seriously. Even in the south this happens. In fact, I think it happens more here than it did in the city I used to live in. For some reason, people are less inclined to put forth the effort to get to know their neighbors.
Why? Are they suspicious? Afraid? Are they too wrapped up in their own families, or hanging out with their lifelong friends that they don’t have the inclination or desire to include someone new in their world? I see this all the time. I see it here. I see it where I used to live. I see it in the way others behave. I don’t like it because I try to treat people as I wish to be treated. Therefore, when I am in a circle of friends and I see someone alone, I invite that person into the circle. I make room for that person. I welcome that person into my world.
I’m not sure too many people do that anymore.
A lot of people won’t open their tightly knit circles to include new people in them unless they meet them at work, at church or at some other formal place. To go beyond those acceptable, known norms is not an easy leap for people these days. Perhaps it is because people don’t know how to do it. They are afraid they’ll fail at entertaining. They think it has to be restaurant quality food and will require a lot of work, time, and energy. Maybe they don’t want to broaden their horizons. They prefer the known over the unknown. And that’s too bad. Because whenever I include someone new in my world, I grow as a person.
The reason I am focused on this issue is not so much because I feel left out. I tend to create my own circles wherever I go. Some circles are created quickly due to circumstances. When we were in DC, we experienced 9/11. This unified my corner of the world. Neighbors in a new community were drawn together by the adversity. We bonded. In other corners of the world, it took me a little longer. But no matter what, I always end up with a circle of friends. People I can rely on. People who become important to me. People I don’t want to leave behind when I move again.
I think about this a lot because as a writer I am tasked with the problem of bringing people together. Two characters must fall in love. They live in a world where they have friends, family, co-workers, neighbors. Yet much of the time that my characters are together, they aren’t hanging out with their friends drinking coffee and chatting about the neighbor down the street (yup, gossiping). They’re falling in love, going on dates, fighting the bad guys, saving their towns, buying up properties, saving children, making a difference.
But after they save the world, fall in love, and get their Happily Ever After, I hope they also become good friends with the neighbors across the street. I hope they have dinners with them. I want them to play cards till midnight and drink cheap red wine while they hang out with their friends. I want them to go bowling, see movies, plant gardens. I want them to hang out by the mailbox and chat with the guy across the street about football games and kids.
And I hope when they see someone new move into their corner of the world that they go over to meet that person, say hello, invite them to dinner. I hope that they broaden their circle to welcome new people into their lives.