Guess who’s coming to dinner?

One of my favourite writers is early 20th-century poet T.S. Eliot, who sometimes is called the greatest poet of the century.
I especially like these stream of consciousness lines of his:
“For I have known them all already, known them all/Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons/I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
I often think about measuring out my life with coffee spoons–or houses I have lived in or people I have known.
And last Sunday, I measured out my life “with Sunday dinners.”
When I grew up, Saturday was baking day and the aroma was tantalizing as my mother baked pies and Parker House rolls for Sunday dinner.
Then, Sunday morning, she put a roast in the oven. After church, she boiled and mashed potatoes, making a nest in the top for butter and sprinkling on a little paprika.
It was a meal fit for a king, or at least for our Sunday dinner guests.
When I got married, I tried to follow my mother’s pattern. But with our very limited budget, we only could afford Spam.
So, I would score the top of the loaf of Spam, put whole cloves in the cuts, and sprinkle on dry mustard and brown sugar before baking. It was a delicious substitute for ham.
Fast forward a few years–my husband was the pastor of a university church and we frequently invited students in for dinner. Interesting theological discussions took place around the table, and we often spent the afternoon playing Rook.
Now, more than 50 years later, our pattern has changed. Almost every Sunday, we visit our favourite brunch buffet at Water’s Edge restaurant.
But last Sunday was different. We signed up to participate as hosts in our church’s “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”
The day of the dinner, guests receive notes in their church boxes telling them what home they are visiting. But hosts don’t know who is coming until they arrive.
What a pleasant surprise when our guests appeared!
The first to arrive were Tony and Diane, who are new to our church. Next was Lenore, who moved here from Indiana three years ago.
Then came our pastor, Heidi, and our good friend, Ethel.
What a pleasant dinner! The food was delicious and the conversation flowed easily as we learned more about each other.
As Sunday dinners go, this was one of the best! The mix of old and new friends made it very special.
It makes me think of a quote from Joseph Parry, “Make new friends, but keep the old; Those are silver, these are gold.”
Oxford anthropologist Robin Dunbar has written a book entitled “How Many Friends Does One Person Need?” His answer is 150: an inner circle of five core people, 10 additional close family and friends, 35 in the next tier, and 100 in the outer circle.
“It’s the number of people that you know as persons, and you know how they fit into your social world and they know how you fit into theirs,” wrote Dunbar.
Friends help us develop as people.
So, why not invite a mix of old and new friends for dinner soon—and prepare yourself for a rich experience.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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