Each year, the church I attend hosts a Family Experience. It’s a time to come together as young families, enjoy a high energy time of skits, games, and teaching, then transition into the activity center for snacks, crafts, a service project, or anything else planned for the specific year.
Last year, I was one of the hosts (characters in the skit). There is usually one serious host and one comedic host. I was the serious host. There is no way I could have out-comedied the person I was paired with last year. Not to mention, I’m not really the comedic type. But this year, the friend who hosted with me fit better into the serious host role, so I transitioned. I put on my silly hat; well, it was actually a silly headband that lit up.
Anyway, my friend and I worked well together. We had several practices and got off track a few times, but we had fun together. I think we made a good team. Neither of us felt completely confident without our scripts the night of the event, and we messed up a few times, but we tried to be flexible and covered for each other. Families seemed to be engaged and have a good time.
One of my best friends had texted me earlier in the day. Her daughter wanted to go, but my friend and her husband had been serving meals to tornado relief workers all week and wouldn’t be able to get away for the evening. I was happy to help. Her daughter and I are buddies; plus, several of her friends would be there, so she easily found a place to sit among them during the program, then got adopted into the group as we transitioned into the activity center.
This year, the theme was compassion, and the focus in the activity center was service. There were also cookies to decorate and enjoy, but the primary activity was packing meals for Lifeline to be shipped to people in Haiti. Watching the families in action was inspiring. We had six stations, and people gathered together, figured out who would do what, and went to work. Dads, moms, kids, and friends helped each other and began to prepare bagged meals and box them up. It had been less than a week since the tornado came through our community, and many of these same people had been helping others in their neighborhoods throughout the week. They were once again helping people in need – not people next door to them, but people next door to someone in another place of the world, people who had ongoing basic needs – and they were doing it together.
I helped as gaps opened as younger kids scooted away to decorate a cookie or two. I enjoyed laughing with the parents and watching them interact with each and their kids. I glanced around the activity center and watched people smile as they served together, including several people I knew were struggling with difficult situations at home or work.
So many people stayed afterward to help clean up. A group of kids were very excited when we mentioned all the miscellaneous grains that had spilled on the tables or floors could be placed in a bag and taken to someone’s chickens. I don’t think a single grain was wasted. People packed up the trailer with all the boxes and supplies. They put away tables, and swept the floors.
A few of us went to eat afterward. It was late, and I wasn’t very hungry, but the time together was so good. It was a continuation of the community coming together and doing life together.
As I drove home, I realized how accurate the name of the evening was: Family Experience. Sure, it’s intended for families with younger children, and that’s no longer me. Even beyond age and lifestage, my family looks a lot different than I thought it would. The same church I attend is where my ex served as a leader for years. We did life with many people. He no longer wanted to be a part of a family with me or with people at church. But my family experience has gone deeper with these people. I appreciate them in new ways. I’ve deepened many of my relationships. I’ve made new ones. I’ve had many opportunities to pour into people – and let them pour into me – in ways I likely would have missed. There is a gap where I thought there wouldn’t be one, but other areas are overflowing.
I am thankful for the family experiences I have. Doing life with others is worth the effort.