On a Wednesday night in early November, I found myself huddled around a dinner table in Jersey City with nine other women. Our usually lively group was quiet that night, and an unspoken tension hung in the air. It was November 9, 2016 — less than 24 hours after one of the most divisive election cycles in U.S. history.
Going to dinner group that night had been a struggle. Feeling emotionally drained from all the news coverage and political discussions that day, all I wanted to do was go home, binge Netflix and eat junk food. After some prodding by my dinner group leader and one of my closest friends, I showed up in yoga pants and a hoodie. I prayed in the minutes before dinner group that I would have the strength to hold it together.
What I found that night surprised me. Instead of going over that Sunday’s conversation or reflecting on the questions for the week, we simply listened to each other. We didn’t talk about politics or the issues of the election; we simply shared how we were feeling emotionally, spiritually, physically and otherwise. Everyone in the group embraced one another and let each person know they were loved. In that moment, I realized I had unwittingly become part of a community that was based on something stronger than party affiliation or political ideology; I had become a member of a family based on faith.
When I signed up for a dinner group at the beginning of 2016, I remember something on Hoboken Grace’s website saying that dinner groups were designed so people could “do life together.” Although I had formed a number of solid friendships since moving to Hoboken more than five years ago, I had a moment of clarity in the fall of 2015 and realized that I didn’t have many friends in the city I lived in who shared my faith or beliefs. The desire to find people who would support me in my faith and struggles prompted me to take those first hesitant steps to join a dinner group, but it wasn’t until I totally committed myself to showing up for the wonderful ladies in my group consistently, week after week, that my life began to change.
Committing to attend dinner group week in and week out laid the foundations for some of the most important friendships I’ve ever had. I’m sure all the women who came to dinner group on November 9th did so with anxieties and questions, no matter who they voted for. But at the end of the day, these women decided to go all in and show up for the other members of the group, regardless of how they were feeling. Simply having a night to chat with girlfriends and sharing how we saw God in each of our lives ended up being exactly what we all needed. The table that night felt more like a family dinner than any I’ve ever had with my biological family, and it’s all because I decided to invest in these relationships. Life is full of ups and downs, but having others to share it with makes it a bit easier and all the more meaningful.
Click here to join a dinner group today. New groups launch January 22nd!