Four years ago, I was preparing to embark on a new adventure. This particular adventure would take a huge investment of resources of every kind. Going in, I knew the risk of failure was pretty high, at least by most people's definition of failure when it comes to running a business. But my definition of success and failure have usually been a little different than other people's and I'm okay with that.
Many moons ago, when my husband and I came off the road after traveling full time for three years doing music all across the country, as well as working trips to Mexico, Canada, and Italy, a friend approached me and said, "Gosh, aren't you disappointed? Things didn't really turn out like you planned." I suppose it may have seemed that way to her and quite possibly a lot of others. In those three years, I didn't become famous. I didn't make a lot of money. And I didn't set myself on a path to continue traveling and singing as a career. But that really wasn't the plan. At least that wasn't the HEART of the plan. The heart of the plan was to write, record, sing, and have an impact on others, whatever that might look like. At the end of those three years, I'd say things went exactly like the heart of the plan. And then it was time to move on.
Back to the adventure from four years ago...
The plan was to have a place, a space, where people could hold events of various kinds and where I could host events for my own creative endeavors. There were additional components to the plan involving other parties, but that was the basic idea. That was the plan. The HEART of the plan was much more. The heart of the plan was community. And to serve as both the symbolic and functional centerpiece of the plan, I wanted a table. A big table. A big, industrial-style table. I drew up some sketches and asked a friend who was just starting a business if he would build it. He did. It was perfect.
Over the next three years, that table would seat men and women conducting business, moms who needed encouragement, and wedding parties. It would hold food from various cultures, the sacraments from different religions, scripts and lyric sheets, the photos of a loved one who recently passed, and the records of achievement from many high school graduates. It served its purpose well during the three years that table sat in its designated place.
These days, the table doesn't sit in an 8,000 square foot building; it sits in the middle of my dining room. When we closed our business last December, the one thing I was determined to keep was that table. Partly because I love it. But mostly because it is still the functional and symbolic centerpiece of what I want my life to be about. Since being in our home, it has been the gathering spot for hungry teens, extended family we rarely see, and both happy and hurting friends. Most often, it is surrounded by the people I hold dearest in this world. The plan for the table may have changed, but the table is still the heart of the plan.
I have tried pretty hard over the years to teach my kids that people matter. They matter more than possessions and position. They matter more than religious or political differences. People matter more than songs, and business, and activity. And they certainly matter more than their mistakes. Over the course of my days on this earth, I may or may not be able to provide much to those I meet in the way of financial gain or privileged opportunity. I might not have great wisdom or vast knowledge to share. But I hope and pray I will always be able to offer a seat at the table, because something special happens there. Stomachs get filled. Voices are heard. Walls come down. Spirits are lifted. It is a beautiful, graceful thing.
I have no idea where this table will be sitting five or twenty or fifty years from now. I hope it holds up over the years. I hope many, many people find something they need as they gather around it. And when I'm long gone, I hope someone else will still see it as more than just a table. Because it really is so much more. It is the heart of the plan. And the heart of the plan is always bigger than the plan itself.