The Turquoise Table:
Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard
by Kristin Schell
Summary: Kristin Schell agreed to host a dinner party at the last minute for a friend (the host of the party) who had an unexpected conflict. In a moment of panic, she ordered two picnic tables for additional seating and when the delivery truck arrived, they set the tables down in the front yard. In that moment, she had a glimpse of what those simple tables could be.
After the party, she decided to leave the table in her front yard, paint it a festive color (Nifty Turquoise to be precise) and “just show up.” This looked a little different everyday but included coffee after getting the kids on the bus, book clubs, craft projects, homework and even meals. She used it as a tool to get to know her neighbors and now she is starting a revolution. She is hoping people will join her by creating their own Turquoise Table.
My wonderful friend recommended this book to me after hearing the premise. First, it is a beautiful book just for the cover alone, but also it is beautiful for its mission. Schell was craving community with her neighbors but felt overwhelmed with her own schedule as well as her four children and family responsibilities. She felt encouraged to be the one to start the community but had no idea how.
You see, Schell had experienced one of those uniquely French dinners. Imagine a rustic table, festive atmosphere, guests that weren’t rushed to get anywhere and delicious yet very simple food to keep people at the table. Oh, and she described boisterous discussions and LOTS of laughter.
Does that sound like dinner at your house on a Tuesday?? It certainly doesn’t look dinners at my house! You might start to say this is Thanksgiving or Christmas at your house but do you worry about breaking someone’s china or cracking the crystal? Schell felt lured to the simple. To the festive. To the people. “I was a stranger in a foreign land, yet being at the table in France fed a basic need–a need every human shares–to belong. The experience at the table was more than a meal; it was nourishment for my soul.”
In many little ways Schell just “showed up.” She would bring her morning coffee outside instead of drinking inside. If she saw anyone (dog walkers, runners, moms with strollers) she would offer a hello or offer for them to join her if the mood seemed right. Often, the brightly hued table was enough of a conversation starter. Once a friend called her asking if she could bring someone over to the table because her friend was new in town and wanting to meet people in the area.
Schell gave up early on the idea that she needed Pinterest, Southern Living or Martha Stewart to do this. She knew she couldn’t keep up with that. In the end it was the people that brought her to the table everyday. Avoiding Instagram feeds that put the best of hosts to shame, she brings back the simplicity needed to welcome everyone in the true spirit of hospitality.
This book isn’t really a how-to or step-by-step of creating your own Front Yard Group, though there are little tidbits throughout that can help you do that. It is more of Schell’s stories that resulted in simply showing up and sharing her table. I really loved this book and though some ideas weren’t necessarily revolutionary, we needed to be reminded of them because of our hasty culture. The Turquoise Table is a beautiful book celebrating the art of true hospitality. I cannot wait to add this to my own personal collection and I think this would be particularly lovely as a gift.
“Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even dare to be silent with you.” –Henri Nouwen
Who is the most hospitable person you know? What about them makes them especially hospitable? What is one thing you try to do to make your guests feel welcome? Please share your thoughts below!