The city beckons to us as the lights create an incandescent dance on the Chain Bridge. Tonight we will spend a warm evening enveloped into the home of Eugenius and Jurga who have become special friends over the last 18 months. There is a magic that can happen when people from different cultures find a connection and it is priceless – the treasure of living cross-culturally. This is how I know that we are wealthy in the ways that truly matter. On this night, in the midst of delicious Lithuanian dishes with charming names like ‘herring under the coat’, our hearts dance.
Tucked into Jurga and Eugenius’ living room with our Romanian friends, Anca and Dan, we are a fortunate six from three different cultures. Our host and hostess serve us a beautiful, traditional meal and mixed into the unfamiliar flavors and the tantalizing aroma of coffee, we share an evening of friendship, laughter, and the exchange of traditions.
Jurga meets us at the door of her apartment, beautifully dressed for the occasion. We bring flowers, a must in European culture. There are the cheek-kisses of greeting, the offer to remove the shoes, the reply that there is no need and the ensuing good-natured argument until someone triumphs. The salads come first; beautiful and deceptive for they tempt you to eat your fill though you know that inevitably a second course is coming. Jay puts the salads on his plate while Eugenius warns him to ‘eat responsibly’. We laugh. Around that beautiful table, we dine leisurely, share smiles and give ourselves up to the enchantment that comes with such an evening.
As we cross the Chain Bridge on our way home, my eyes feast hungrily on the outrageous beauty of this city wrapped in the arms of the Danube. A Lithuanian desert tree is tucked by my side; a gift from Jurga and Eugenius. According to Lithuanian tradition, a guest is always sent home with a gift to ensure that they take a piece of the host and hostess with them. Tradition whispers a golden truth about our deep need to be bound to one another in relationship.
Jesus chose a table with friends to be one of his last moments in his earthly journey. Tonight’s meal around the table with our friends gives me cherished insights into the heart of our Saviour on another night long ago. The Danube lights flicker and bounce off of my Lithuanian desert tree and I smile tenderly. A powerful gesture indeed, this taking and eating to receive the hospitality that comes at the table.