The dinner was what could almost be considered a party. It was 8 individuals or so, who weren't part of the same circle of friends. They weren't all one chummy group. Some were related. Some were acquainted. Some were political rivals. However, the host arranged it all so that the dynamic characteristics of each of his guests would be on display. He intentionally invited certain people to introduce them, because he knew they would get along greatly.
Then, during the party, he would mingle between guests, bringing up topics he knew they would find interesting. He encouraged conversation. He knew how to avoid touchy subjects. It was incredible.
In our day, things like this just don't happen. In a sermon by John MacArthur that I was listening to yesterday, he was talking about how people are becoming more and more individualized, and don't see values in relationship. We don't see dependence on others as a good thing. We like to be autonomous. We take pride in the fact that we can get along on our own, without help from family or friends. Now, I'm not saying you should be a burden on someone, or that working to provide for yourself is wrong. Not at all. My point is that we lack that link that generations before us found vital.
If you were to invite eight people over for dinner, who would it be? They couldn't be of the same group- your basketball team, your Bible study. Just eight people who you think could thrive off of each others experiences and conversation. I don't think I know eight people's personalities well enough to know what sort of things they would have in common with my other friends. It's quite sad.
Another experience I had recently was a stop I had on the way back from a family vacation. We spent two nights at my Aunt and Uncle's house in southern Alberta. I have always loved talking to my aunt, and this time, I wanted to figure out why. Why is it I feel so comfortable with this woman who I really only see twice a year at the most?
She makes you feel she's listening. She asks intentional questions. She cares about what your goals and dreams are. She never questions "how can you afford to do that?" or "is that really the best use of time?". She's genuinely excited about your life, and what you're excited about. She knows how to create these sorts of conversations where you can really meet someone. I don't feel I know her quite as well as she knows me, but I feel that's my fault. I haven't been intentional about asking. I haven't developed that skill.
That's something I really want to work on. People usually love to share themselves, but we're too busy trying to get our point across that we miss the experiences they're trying to share with us.