Is Someone Avoiding Your Table?

Sitting Alone

Her chicken chunks and cheese were on her favorite pink plate, her juice in her sippy cup. She’d set up an alternative dining experience for one, using a bar stool in my kitchen as her table.

My two-year-old granddaughter was happy at her new dining area. It was a perfect fit for her.

Until she noticed me, just a few feet away. I was sitting at the kitchen table with my plate. Alone.

“Are you lonely, Granna? Do you need a friend at your table?

Even at the age of two, we are capable of noticing when someone is eating alone.

And by adulthood, we should be asking ourselves: Is someone avoiding my table?

Cafeteria Break

Maybe you remember what it was like in the high school cafeteria at lunchtime. If you were like me, you looked for your friends, your crowd, your people. You wanted to relax and enjoy a mental break at your table. Wanting to be with our friends is not a bad thing.

At the same time, there were other tables you wanted to avoid. You didn’t want to put down your tray beside someone who would make you uncomfortable the whole meal.

Have you noticed these tables are often divided by color?

Beverly Daniel Tatum asks this question in her book by the same title: Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?

One answer may be this: They need a break from the white kids. And as Tatum says, “Even mature adults sometimes need to connect with someone who looks like them and who shares the same experiences.”

It’s stressful to try to get along all day with people who don’t understand you.

Or who don’t understand themselves.

Which Table Are We?

We don’t like to think about it, but sometimes we are the table that makes others uncomfortable.

And we make others so uncomfortable that when they see us, they walk the other way, to find their own crowd, their own people who will listen and understand and be a real friend.

As a White person, we may not intend for it to be this way. We think we treat everyone the same.

But like it or not, we swim in a culture that does NOT treat everyone the same. And because of that, we all have blind spots—hurtful beliefs or words or behaviors that we replicate without even realizing it.

When we refuse to believe that possibility—that there are things we do or say that make others uncomfortable—we aren’t listening to what our Black neighbors have been trying to tell us.

If All White, Why?

If you’ve ever been one of the only Whites in a room with mostly Blacks, did you notice? I notice. I become self-conscious.

  • I wonder if I don’t belong.
  • I wonder if I’ll be excluded.
  • I wonder if they wonder what I’m doing here.

The converse is almost something I notice: Am I in a space that is all White? And if so, why is that?

Frankly, it makes me question if something is wrong when there are no people of color…in a church I visit, or an event I attend, or a party I’m invited to. What is it saying?

The solution? I wish I had the answers. I’m grappling with my own blind spots. I’m trying to learn and change. There is much I don’t know.

But I do know this: We can pay attention when others intentionally avoid our table.

And we can ask ourselves why. If we’re doing something that makes us an unsafe place, we need to work on that.

Especially if we’re believers in Christ. His mission, and ours, is to make room at the table for everyone. For everyone to be invited. To feel welcomed. To feel at home.

Sit at Their Table, Too

Sometimes that means making ourselves uncomfortable by also doing this: Sit at someone else’s table.

See what that feels like. Don’t expect everyone to come to you. Go to them, too.

That’s what my granddaughter did.

She wanted me to have a friend at the table. So she picked up her plate, moved her cup and napkin and fork, to my table. To sit by Granna.

“Now you have a friend. Are you happy, Granna?”

Yes. Very.

I posted a short version of this on Instagram. Anita left an insightful response that it’s intimidating to be different, but “intimidation is not an excuse.” Let’s not be intimidated by the hard things.

Who did you sit with at lunch? Share your thoughts in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Is Someone Avoiding Your Table?

  1. Martha Jane Orlando

    Oh, Lisa, what your granddaughter did is both precious and priceless! No one should have to be lonely when at the table.
    As for my experiences as a teacher, where our student body was about equally made up of black and white children, I never noticed any of the isolation you are referring to here. Kids simply sat with their friends, not caring about skin color in the least. Sure, there might have been a few pockets here and there in the cafeteria, but it certainly wasn’t the norm. And that’s a good thing!

  2. Laurie

    What a sweet granddaughter you have! She noticed, even at 2 years old that you were alone and worried about you.
    I think the lesson you discuss in this post is one I learned when I read Michelle Obama’s book. I never thought about how we voluntarily associate with other people like us – same skin color, same socioeconomic class, even the same faith. It’s good to be aware of this trait and make ourselves uncomfortable by sitting at someone else’s table.

    By the way…in my high school, there was only one person of color in the entire school!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, my little granddaughter is such a sweetie. It’s so fun to watch them develop compassion skills that they lack when they’re especially little. She’s not always as compassionate with her little sister tho. lol.

      I loved Michelle Obama’s book, but I haven’t watched the documentary yet. It’s on my watch list. My school was about 70/30 whites to blacks. While we did have a few people who mixed back and forth easily, most stayed with their own crowds. 🙁

  3. Jeanne Takenaka

    Your grand daughter has such a sweet spirit! What a great reminder to look around us and notice. This has definitely been a year of listening for me, of reaching out to engage with people I know who are of different ethnicities. I attended a mostly Hispanic high school, and there were times that I felt like the outsider. I need to remember what that feels like and be the one reaching out an invitation. I read Be the Bridge by LaTasha Morrison recently. That book was eye-opening. I’ll be reading it again and praying about all I’m soaking in.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      How interesting that you were a minority in a mostly Hispanic high school. I don’t recall any Hispanics at all in my school back in the day. Our Hispanic communities here have grown tremendously only in the past 15 years or so. Your perspective is an invaluable one and probably contributes to you being a good listener now! Be the Bridge was eye-opening to me as well, and I also need to read it again and find ways to put it into practice. I joined the Facebook group a couple years ago but didn’t follow through with engaging there like I had planned to. 🙁

  4. Jill

    Great insights, Lisa. I too have thought on this lately and am trying to make more of an effort to see all those around me and step out into the uncomfortable or as Anita said the intimidating. Love how we learn from the children so often in life. Thanks for sharing and happy to have stopped over from Crystal’s!

  5. Carlie

    Thank you, Lisa! I always enjoy reading your perspective. As a believer in Christ, I long for us (believers) to truly live out His mission, and ours, to make room at the table for EVERYONE. Thanks for helping us to zone in on what we might be doing that causes others to feel uncomfortable. May we instead purposefully strive ‘for everyone to be invited. To feel welcomed. To feel at home.’

  6. Michele Morin

    Here in rural Maine, we are a racially homogeneous bunch, but we divide along other lines that are just as fractious. I want my table to be welcoming to anyone who needs a place to sit and be loved

  7. Kim Carberry

    Your granddaugher does sound like a sweetheart.
    What a great post. I remember being at school and the tables did seem to be divided by colour but thankfully at my girls school it seems everyone just sits with their friends no matter what their skin colour is. It seems things have changed for the better in the 20 odd years since I was at school. x

  8. Anne

    What a sweet girl your grand daughter is. When I was at school there were not many children of different cultures but the ones that were had integrated with no issues. We sat together. It seems strange that the very generation I went to school with have turned out to be the ones with the most prejudices now. I really don’t understand it.

  9. Jean Wise

    Challenging image. I live in a white tiny village with little diverse interaction. Yet if I am honest, there ARE opportunities to know other better, to reach out, not to avoid their table.

  10. Donna

    Great post, Lisa. Took me back to my own high school days. Actually I was a minority in my high school, one of the few “whites”. My entire field hockey team was black (except for me!). I think the entire experience gave me a sensitivity for what it’s like to be a minority, and left out. I find when I walk into a room I gravitate towards the marginalized. Very timely message!

  11. Lois Flowers

    Lisa, this is such a thought-provoking post … and as is often the case with your blog, I think I got as much out of reading the comments and your responses as I did from your actual post. You have prompted me to reflect on my own growing up years and the example of inclusiveness that my parents set for us. I’m so grateful for that.

  12. Maree Dee

    Oh, Lisa, what a beautiful illustration.

    I loved this reminder – “It’s stressful to try to get along all day with people who don’t understand you.” I sometimes forget this. I try so hard to be inclusive, but maybe there are things I can change. I have a certain person in mind who doesn’t join us.

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post.


  13. Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love)

    Your granddaughter sounds adorable and how lovely that she wanted to come to your table to make sure you weren’t alone. We as adults could certainly learn a lot from that. I remember that feeling at school of deciding which table to sit at; which table was going to be the most comfortable to sit at. I have to confess I still have that feeling at social events, including church social events – there are always people I gravitate to more easily and no doubt I should choose to head for the tables which don’t feel so comfortable more often. Thanks for giving me food for thought there. #WotW

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