Posted by Colleen Woods on

If I had to choose between listening to stories and sharing my own, my first choice would always be listening. The better portion of my life has been spent listening, and many would say that I have been a good friend because of it. People who have the gift of sharing freely the details of their own lives and stories amaze me. Just as I marvel at the winsomeness of Lucy flying topless down the street on her bicycle, those who so freely “tell it all” fascinate me. There are moments I wonder what it would be like to be so open and honest with people. Many people I know like that are the ones who add delight to gatherings and help others to let down their guards.

In addition to listening to stories, I enjoy reading the memoirs of others, most especially my companions on the journey of faith who have overcome great obstacles and learned to trust implicitly the love of God.

I have collected some beautiful things through the years ... handblown glass ornaments, handmade baskets and beautiful dishes (my favorite is Fiestaware). I have greatly loved setting beautiful tables to gather family and friends. I delight in preparing delicious food to go on those dishes too.

Many years ago now, shortly after my husband and I married, we were entertaining some relatives of his. After they left, he turned to me and told me I couldn't do that anymore.

It was confusing (at best). “Why not?” I asked.

His reply: “People will never invite you over because they’ll think that they have to do that too.”

I quickly responded, “That would be like telling the soloist in the choir that she should never sing a solo!” My husband is a singer himself and has been a soloist many times in his life. (I think he got the idea.)

Hospitality is a gift of mine and I love sharing it. Even when I was a little girl, I wanted to set the table for company, and if I could have the assignment of baking a cake, I was overjoyed. I still love ornaments, baskets and dishes, but I don’t collect them anymore. I collect books now. Old books with edge-worn covers, pages with foxing, and even love notes recorded under the cover from the giver to the recipient over a century ago.

One of my favorite book titles is All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It is a delightful book of short essays by Robert Fulghum, first published in 1986. Kindergarten was an epoch-making year for me. In addition to learning my colors and how to share, I also discovered that crispy graham crackers and ice cold milk make a perfect pairing. My letter to Santa that year contained but one request, “Please Santa, all I want for Christmas is an Easy-Bake Oven and please make mine blue!” I didn’t receive that longed-for oven that year, but I did get one 37 Christmases later ... and a sweet story to go with it.

Just a few short weeks after Christmas, a winter storm blew in across the state and closed the schoolhouse doors early that day. I found myself without mittens on the walk from the bus stop to home in the midst of a raging storm. Only a half a block into the several-block journey home, I climbed over a snowbank in an undeveloped city lot to find shelter from the snow and wind, and I fell fast asleep. At nightfall, a paperboy cutting through the empty lot to shorten his trip home found me there, illuminated by a street lamp.

I was rescued. What LOVE.

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