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Everyday Greatness: Tables Where All Are Welcome

She turned a delivery mistake into a way to connect with neighbors and create community.

Kristin Schell; photo courtesy Kristin Schell
Credit: courtesy Kristin Schell
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WHO SHE IS Kristin Schell is the founder of The Turquoise Table, a movement of ordinary people who want to create community right in their own front yards. Ten years ago, she and her husband and their four children moved to a new home in Austin, Texas.

Kristin knew God had given her the gift of hospitality, and she tried to connect with her new neighbors by hosting Bible studies and playgroups. But those activities required planning ahead and coordinating schedules, not to mention cooking and cleaning.

One day, Kristin needed backyard furniture for a party and bought a few picnic tables from Lowe’s. The delivery driver set one table down in her front yard by mistake, and Kristin couldn’t get the image out of her head. “After the party, I painted the table turquoise—my favorite color—and put it in the front yard, just a few feet from the sidewalk,” she says.

WHAT SHE DOES That turquoise table became the place where Kristin and her kids hung out. Activities they used to do at the kitchen table, they now did out front at the picnic table. They played games, did crafts and ate snacks. “We got intentional about where we spent our time,” Kristin says. “We became ‘front yard people.’”

Neighbors began to stop by to introduce themselves and sit down for a chat. Kristin invited people to join her at the table for coffee or iced tea. “It was a simple way to slow down and connect with others,” she says. The turquoise table was inviting and had a communal feel.

Construction workers on jobs in the neighborhood took their lunch breaks at the table. A babysitter walking by with her young charges sat down to rest. Then neighbors asked Kristin if their family could put a picnic table in their front yard too. A movement was born.

WHY SHE DOES IT People often hesitate to invite others into their homes. They think their house is too messy, it’s not big enough or they don’t have enough time. “Our perfectionism can cause us to miss out on the joy of connecting with others,” Kristin says. Her picnic table takes away the excuses—and the pressure.

“I’ve learned that hospitality doesn’t always mean entertaining people with a meal or a big party. At the picnic table, all I have to do is show up.” She likes how it enables her to take a small step toward easing loneliness and building relationships in her community. “People’s greatest need is to know that they are loved and that they belong,” she says.

HOW SHE DOES IT A decade after their Texas beginnings, thousands of Turquoise Tables exist in all 50 states and in 13 countries around the world. Not all of them are actually turquoise. Texas Christian University in Fort Worth has several purple tables to match their team colors, for example. “No matter what color it is, it’s a friendship table,” Kristin says.

HOW YOU CAN DO IT TOO Want to build relationships in your community with your own Turquoise Table? You don’t even need a front yard to do it! You can set up a table in the courtyard of your apartment or senior living complex, at a community center, in a neighborhood garden or at your church. Anywhere people naturally gather makes a wonderful spot for a Turquoise Table. For morce information on joining the movement, visit theturquoisetable.com.

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