Everyone Should Experience The Life-Changing Power Of 'The Friendship Table'

by Jess Johnston
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of Jess Johnston

One night when the kids were in bed, my husband and I turned off the show we were watching and sat for a moment in the silence. We had three babies under four and life was chaotic. We we were tired, overwhelmed, and lonely.

“We need friends,” I said. We talked about how we didn’t have “those people” to share life with and that it was painful. It was that night that we decided to start inviting people over.

We’d listened to a podcast about investing in the areas of your life that are lacking. We lacked deep friendships, and we knew it. We decided to invite a couple over every Friday night (even though it scared us).

We bought a table for 30 bucks at a garage sale. It had an ugly laminate finish and forest green legs, so my husband sanded it down and repainted it. He left the top raw wood, and soon it was covered with spots from markers and paint from the kids’ projects, but I didn’t care. I liked it that way.

We started inviting, and people started coming. At first it was awkward and uncomfortable. We cooked and cleaned and worried, but as soon as we sat down around that table it became easier. Slowly but surely, something began to awaken in us.

We started hosting parties and game nights. That table held countless games of Settlers, rounds of poker, and plates of homemade pizza. Over the course of a year we found friends that we truly connected with. Game nights turned to regular dinners, and real, deep conversations.

There was one couple that wasn’t a “couple.” They were amazing together, but he had battled cancer twice and was hesitant to jump in with both feet. We knew beyond a doubt they belonged together, but the situation was hard. One day my husband and I dragged our worn, marker-covered table to the backyard where we were having lunch with them and some other close friends.

We dove in with both feet to an awkward conversation. We asked the questions, “Why not be together? You light each other up and you are more alive when you’re together.” There were mountains of emotions and fears lingering over that table as we spoke on such a tender topic.

It was so hard. It was so painful. I wasn’t sure if they felt loved or hurt. Our friend who’d battled cancer withdrew for a bit and we knew he was wrestling with stuff that we couldn’t begin to understand.


Three months went by with much silence on their end. Then one day they had news: “We’re dating!” They brought champagne. We laughed and celebrated because we knew this was just the beginning for them — the beginning of a life not dictated by cancer.

Soon he came to us with stars shining in his eyes. “I’m going to ask Allie to marry me,” he said. I was secretly commissioned to research rings.

He told us about a field where he often found spiritual peace while he was fighting cancer, when everything in his life was turmoil. “I want to propose there, and I want it to be at this table,” he said, running his hand across the worn wood and ink spots.

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This table. The table where we’d had countless dinners and conversations and games. The table that we’d drug out to the backyard and had “that” conversation.

“I want you all to be there,” he said.

So, one glorious day, the guys brought the table to that field and placed it in the dry grass surrounded by mountains. We made up a lie about a girls’ night and somehow convinced Allie to wear a special dress. She didn’t have a clue until we started down a familiar dirt road, somewhere he had taken her before.

She looked at us, her eyes already full. “It’s time to go,” we said. “He’s at the top of the hill.”

There in the tall, dry grass, next to our $30 table, he asked her to spend the rest of her life with him. We let them have a moment (or a second) and then we all rushed them with whooping and cheering and tears and hugs. Then, right in the field, we shared a meal and champagne at the well-worn and beloved table that had brought us all together.

Friendship is waiting. Maybe it’s just one shared meal away. Maybe it’s fifty shared meals away. But isn’t it still worth it? Maybe it’s a frozen pizza, maybe it’s boxed brownies, maybe it’s around a $30 table marred with crayon and pen.

Maybe it will be one of the most life-altering decisions you ever make.

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