Party of One: Thankfulness

November 2013SCRIPTURE VERSE: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ~ Col 3:17 (NIV)

QUOTE: Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being.  Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light. ~ Albert Schweitzer

Two years ago I began Party of One, A Fellowship for Those Tired of Dining Alone. We’ve been meeting a couple of times a month since then.

Is coordinating these Party of One events work? Some say it is. Why doesn’t it feel like work to me? Maybe because any “work” I put into it comes back as a blessing–both for me and for those who attend.

Just recently, my husband and I hosted a Party of One gathering at our home. I wanted the November luncheon to have a Thanksgiving flavor and planned to go around the room and ask people to state one thing they were thankful for. In the flurry of food and fellowship, I forgot my plan.  I sent a quick email the next day offering this:

I’m thankful for all you Party of One-ers who graced our home with your presence on Saturday. I’m also thankful for those who have joined us this past year. I enjoy you all! ~ Clarice

In return, I got these responses:

I am thankful to be alive and I never want to forget the cancer patients who are having a rough go of it.  During my time at the radiation center another cancer patient made sea shell angels and she gave them away to the other patients.  I have this sea shell angel on my dresser and I look at it every day because  I never want to forget how fortunate I am. ~ Sandy

I am thankful for you, Clarice and Jerri. Without u there may be no group as this one. I am grateful 2 God 4 life also. ~ Karen S.

The one thing I am most thankful for is a loving God who is always present to me. . . and present in many ways, through many people.  You are one of the ways God is present in my life.  See you in the New Year.   Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving. ~ Karen L.

Thank you Clarice. It was nice to see you all, keep in touch.
By the way, I am thankful for all the nice groups, and my church, my family that give meaning and love to my life~ Jo

One woman even took the time to write a lovely letter:

The  dining event held in your home was delightful and many thanks for being such a gracious hostess . . .  The Party of One is becoming a staple for many of us single diners and I feel blessed to be part of the gathering. It is a unique opportunity to meet interesting people from all walks of life.

Indeed at this time of the year, I am reminded to ponder and appreciate the quality of friendships gained this past year. I am grateful for the opportunity to be in the presence of a kind facilitator as you who fosters a sincere interest in keeping the spirit of kinship alive via these dinning around events.

Once again, I sincerely appreciate and enjoy myself tremendously.  In every gathering event. ~ Yvette

November 2013I’d like to add a few more Party of One things I’m grateful for:

  1. My husband David. How many husbands would consent to their wives starting a group for singles? In two years time, he’s only missed one event!
  2. My sister-in-love Jerri Spearman who has a heart for lonely people and the boldness to invite them.
  3. Good food I don’t have to cook!
  4. New friends! When I moved to NH seven years ago, I only knew one person.
  5. The faithful attendees who are willing to drive making it possible for others to come.
  6. Getting to know my way around my new state.
  7. The smiling servers at all the restaurants who put up with our tardiness, yakking, and separate checks.
  8. Stories, characters and laughter.
  9. The privilege to pray for Party of One-ers and their families.
  10. Finally, I am grateful to the Lord, who led me (then nudged me) into this wonderful adventure!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Party of One: People-Pleasing

Grand Buffet in February 2013SCRIPTURE VERSE:  Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. ~ Gal 1:10 (NIV)

QUOTE: I am a recovering people-pleaser. (Is that okay?)

With about sixty-five people on my Party of One (a fellowship for those tired of dining alone) contact list, I was determined to please them all.

First, I needed to find a restaurant centrally located in the Amherst-Derry-Hudson-Litchfield-Londonderry-Milford-Nashua-Pelham, New Hampshire area. Easy-peasy. One with ample parking and handicap access;  room to accommodate large parties with little notice; and an ambiance that appealed to the sensitivities of white and blue collars, democrats, republicans, and independents, and intellectuals, holy rollers, and rednecks. No prob.

Of course, the eating establishment’s menu must boast four-star American as well as international cuisine at budget prices. And their team of professional waitpersons must be enthusiastic about providing separate checks and Grand Buffet February 23, 2013takeout containers.

Once I found this perfect restaurant, after factoring in the New England weather, all I’d have to do was select a day that fit everyone’s schedule and a time that best matched any appetite and satisfied all current (and future) medical conditions.

What was I thinking? I can’t even do that when I eat out alone.

I suspected a propensity for people-pleasing. To discover what it was about pleasing people that sucked me in every time, I embarked upon a journey of serious research. Of course, for me, only Google would do.

It didn’t take long to discover that Google was NOT into people-pleasing—because I didn’t like what they had to say.

People-pleasers . . .

  • Like to feel needed
  • Dislike confrontation
  • Put everyone else before themselves
  • Need outside validation
  • Fear being left out
  • Lack confidence
  • Worry about what others think
  • Fear they will fail
  • Fail because pleasing everyone can’t be done
  • And, wonder of wonders, they are stressed

I had to re-think the way I facilitated this fellowship. Here’s what I came up with.

  • Pray! God gave me the idea in the first place, so he will give me the answers I need.
  • I am only responsible for my own actions.
  • Unless someone else is willing to lead, I must make the decisions as best I can.
  • I will make mistakes.
  • My personal priorities—especially the needs of my husband–must come first.
  • I need to nip manipulation in the bud.
  • No day or time or restaurant will ever be a perfect fit for everyone.
  • My choices shouldn’t be dictated by whiners and complainers.
  • I’ll go with the flow and have fun with those who show up.

 God has a master plan and he is the Master. I need to get out of his way and let him work.

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Party of One Highly Recommends These Organizations

The Party of One, A Fellowship for Those Tired of Dining Alone, recommends these four additional resources which meet some of the varied needs of its members.

A Widow's MightA Widow’s Might: This select group of bloggers and guest bloggers have all been widowed. Sharing their hearts with their followers, they walk this journey together. Their prayer is that their site will be a source of refreshment and encouragement as they share their challenges, their tears, and their triumphs. “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”– 2 Corinthians 1:4

DivorceCareDivorceCare is a friendly, caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. Don’t go through separation or divorce alone. DivorceCare seminars and support groups are led by people who understand what you are going through and want to help. You’ll gain access to valuable resources to help you deal with the pain of the past and look forward to rebuilding your life. There are thousands of DivorceCare divorce recovery support groups meeting throughout the US, Canada and in other countries around the world. There’s one meeting near you!

GriefshareGriefShare, like DivorceCare, is a caring group of people who will walk alongside you through grief, one of life’s most difficult experiences.  GriefShare seminars and support groups are led by people who understand what you are going through and want to help. You’ll have access to valuable resources to help you recover from your loss and look forward to rebuilding your life. There are thousands of GriefShare grief recovery support groups meeting throughout the US, Canada and in over 10 other countries. There’s one meeting near you!

Seniors Helping SeniorsSeniors Helping Seniors in-home senior care is an exceptional program of caring and care. It is refreshingly unique, matching seniors who want to help with seniors who are looking for help. The strength and compassion that is born out of these relationships shows us that it doesn’t matter who is the helper and who is being helped. The respect, understanding and assistance in these relationships are two-way. Our senior care givers go through a 6-8 week process of vetting and training.  We look for just the right heart in every potential care giver–if they don’t meet our heart standards, we don’t hire them.  Once we find the right heart, we get to know their personality, interests and skills and “type” them in our database. All this, before we even start the lengthy training process!

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Party of One: Celebrate Life

SCRIPTURE VERSE: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:  a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;  a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  ~ Ecc 3:1-4 (ESV)

QUOTE: “I must not think it strange if God takes in youth those whom I would have kept on earth until they were older. God is peopling eternity, and I must not restrict Him to old men and women.”  ~ James “Jim” Elliot (1927-1956) Martyred evangelical Christian missionary to Ecuador

Deb McNalleyOur Party of One chapter lost one of its own last week: Deborah McNally. It took us by surprise. I could tell by the comments and questions I heard.

“What on earth happened?” Because of our unwritten policy not to pry into each other’s personal lives, most of us were unaware of any serious health issues that Deb might have had. She probably told a few people, but it wasn’t her focus.

“Did I ever meet her?” If you had met Deb, you would have remembered her. She was one of our most enthusiastic members who invited everyone she knew. She often told me she wished we could meet every week.

“How long was she in the hospital?” “What was the cause of death?” We didn’t really need to know the details because it wouldn’t bring her back.

“But she was so young.” Yes, that she was, at least according to our time-table. People who die, we think, should always be much older than we are.

The funeral was Saturday. Our next Party of One fellowship was scheduled for the following afternoon. I thought about cancelling as I pondered the timing. It didn’t take me long to decide that it was the perfect timing. Deb would have been there, chatting away, planning to take a walk with someone, or meet for lunch mid-week.

We decided to honor Deb’s memory by celebrating life—hers and ours. She would have loved it.

April 21 2013 - T-BonesApril 21 - 2013 T-Bones

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Party of One: We Don’t Have the Power

At Lui Lui RestaurantSCRIPTURE VERSE: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind.”  ~ 1Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)

QUOTE: “Love looks forward, hate looks back, anxiety has eyes all over its head.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin

By the Party of One’s very nature and purpose, our group attracts a share of lonely and grief-stricken people. Many who attend are naturally jovial, sociable, and fun-loving; while others are practical, serious-minded, and make every decision based on logic.

None of us are perfect; hard to believe, I know. Some of us are selfless, others are self-centered. Some of us can be needy, anxious, and troubled. Most of us are all of the above at one time or another

What can we say? What do we do? How can we help?Lui Lui

The most honest answer I can give is, “I don’t know.” In fact, no one knows for sure. We can’t heal people. We can only alleviate their loneliness, grief, need, anxiety, or trouble for a short period of time. We can’t fix emotional problems or repair broken relationships. And we can’t find them a new spouse—and we don’t intend to die trying. 🙂

We offer respite for the weary. Party of One gatherings are a brief stop in the craziness of life and the quandaries of our soul. We offer companionship and laughter. You can take it or you can leave it. We don’t force ourselves on you, but you are always welcome.

Party of One is more about fellowship, human contact, and encouragement than the menu or venue. We don’t offer cures for the ills of life or forgiveness for past, present and future sins. So if you decide to join us, we won’t expect miracles from you if you don’t expect miracles from us. We are human; we don’t have the power. Only God does.

Instead, in the quiet of your heart, humble yourselves before God. Ask him to “lift you up in due time.” He’s the only one who can take away your anxiety, loneliness, and pain.

But if you need us to pray, we are willing.

Lui Lui

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Party of One: Champion of Widows

00495SCRIPTURE VERSE: “Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in his holy house.” ~ Ps 68:5 (MSG)

QUOTE: “Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes aren’t rubbed in but rubbed out. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice.” ~ Rick Warren

I recently heard a speaker in a Focus on the Family broadcast say that there are 47 references to “widows and orphans” in the Bible (where the two groups are often paired). The verses command us to take care of them and let us know what will happen if we don’t.

Of the Party of One members, probably one third are widows—widows with different views on remarriage.

If their marriage was a good one and their grief is new, some praise their spouse, forgetting any faults and recall only moments of bliss. If their marriage was  bad, they may declare they will never re-marry and that all men are bad, forgetting any moments of bliss. Most, however, remember both the good and the bad and know that it’s all part of living.

00496The majority of the women over 70, for multiple reasons, don’t consider remarriage an option. Those in their fifties and sixties haven’t ruled out remarriage, but they’re weighing other options, some more interesting.  Some may find living alone a pleasant adventure, especially after years of raising families and caring for others. Some younger women (and men) believe that finding a mate is the only answer to their only prayer.

In all the stories, there are often (not always) two common elements: pain and loneliness. For some, the pain is fresh because they need time to heal. For others, the pain is bitter because they won’t let it go.

To be clear, the purpose of Party of One is NOT to find husbands for widows (or wives for widowers) or to even change anyone’s view on remarriage. Our goal is to relieve a little of the pain, to take away some of the loneliness, and to give them new memories to savor.

00497Seventeen of us went to Denny’s last week. Not a four-star dining establishment, I think we all agree. But as I often remind the Party of One-ers (myself included), it’s not about the cuisine or the venue, it’s about the fellowship.

I called Denny’s three days in advance to give a final count to reserve tables for Saturday (one of their two busiest days of the week). Somehow the manager was never told.  Yet this busy man and his hosts reassured me that they would take care of us (widows and orphans)—and that they did!

In essence, it became one big board game, with servers scrambling around to move tables like chess pieces across the dining room floor. It seemed as soon as more Party of One-ers arrived, a table would vacate making room for them to be seated.

Thankfully, there wasn’t one poor sport in the bunch— in Denny’s waitstaff or in the Party of One-ers. We made a happy impression on customers who ask who we were; I was able to give them a card and invite them to join us.

With God as our champion, we all won at the Party of One. And we lessened  some of the pain and loneliness for our widows.

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Party of One: “They Were All Encouraged and Ate Some Food . . .”

00435SCRIPTURE VERSE: “After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.  They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.” ~ Acts 27:35-36 (NIV)

QUOTE: “I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary. ~ C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) English-born Baptist preacher & theologian.

00436Since our first Party of One gathering in November 2011, it’s become clearer to me how much I identify with those who are alone—and why. If I hadn’t been through an eight-year period of aloneness myself, I wouldn’t be able to empathize.

Why do I say that? Because I know me; I’m too self-centered.

The seed of the Party of One, A Fellowship for Those Tired of Dining Alone, was planted during the years I was widowed. It took many more years before it sprouted. Now, when I look out over a table (or tables) of people who have gathered to share a meal together, I am blessed to say, as Luke wrote about the church in Acts:  “They were all encouraged and ate some food . . .”

Unlike the little boy in the 1999 movie The Sixth Sense, I don’t “see dead people,” I see people alone, everywhere: in church, at the grocery store, in study groups, at the nail salon, in my writer’s critique group, in traffic, and in my book club.

Some of those who joined me early on at the Party of One feel the same. My co-conspirator Jerri Spearman is my lead Party of One evangelist. She invites single people she meets in restaurants, at work, and in stores. She even invited a woman with whom she got in a minor accident!

In a short time with little advertising, the Party of One contact list has grown from 20 to 65 people. Of the 65, 20 people came from my church; another 22 contacted me after an article about our group appeared in a local newspaper; 16 more arrived by word-of-mouth; and seven heard about us through my writer’s critique group.

My desire is for Party of One chapters to sprout and spread across the United States. I even offer some guidelines on this blog.

It’s such a simple idea, one that will continue to grow–not because of anything I do, but because God is in it.

TAKE ACTION: Whether you are alone or want to encourage someone who is, make a concerted effort to reach out to one other person this week. Maybe you’re not ready to start a Party of One chapter at this time, but you can share a meal with one other. I guarantee you’ll be blessed in return!

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