The Parable of the Table for One

A dinnertime re-mix of a story found in St. Luke’s gospel. Luke's parable is here.


On a late autumn Sunday morning the smartly dressed churchman stood beside his twin 16-year-old daughters in the lobby of an historic church in the city of Korban, USA. He turned to a man he had never met and cheerfully pronounced, “Blessed is anyone who will taste freedom in the kingdom of God!”

Moments earlier, Pastor Walls had suggested that the congregation greet each other with this slightly cumbersome phrase. So the hearers obliged, mingling and meandering in the church lobby. They offered up their pastor’s wish – and then debated the lunch merits of restaurants in downtown Korban.

“Have I ever told you ‘The Parable of the Table for One’?” inquired the stranger.

“No, by all means, please,” the father of twin daughters answered, hastily.

“Yes, yes, well...” began the man whom the churchman had never met.

 Once upon a time, a 19-year-old Bolivian girl from Chapare prepared a lavish dinner.

She was in Hong Kong at the time, living in a furnished flat and working as a commercial sex escort for a daily parade of wealthy clients. One day she sent a letter to her mother, who had not heard from her in three years and had almost given up hope. The scrawled letter was sparse and a bit cryptic.

“Mom: I'm in Hong Kong. The work here is different from what was promised. It's a prison. But everything is now ready. They can come and eat.”

At the bottom of the letter she left a note: “Ask uncle Mauricio for a little money and take the bus to La Paz. When you get there, please show this letter to the Chinese embassy, the U.S. embassy and also to Pastor Walls from Korban, USA. A government worker can fax it to the church. I love you. I miss the rainforest so much.”

The Bolivian girl’s mother did exactly as her daughter requested. Eventually the girl received a short letter from her mom, delivered by a courier posing as a client. She opened it with a flourish as she sat at a table overlooking the Hong Kong skyline.

“My dearest daughter, I have done what you asked, but no one is able to come and eat.

The Chinese embassy said: ‘This is a big century for us. There’s a lot on the table. The people’s economic progress is our preeminent concern. Regrettably, we cannot attend your daughter’s dinner.’

The U.S. embassy said: ‘As you know, we’re recovering from a monumental recession. With the mid-term election results and with 2012 on the horizon, our domestic agenda is the main course. We take compassion seriously, but the people have their own consuming cares. We wish we could make it to your daughter’s dinner.’

And Pastor Walls faxed back: ‘I am so sorry for your daughter. Have you tried contacting the U.S. or Chinese embassies? With Christmas here in Korban, we’d be happy to send her a donation from our offering table. We’re just not able to come to your daughter’s dinner during this season.’

My dearest daughter, I don’t know what to say. I will ask some others. I love you.”

One month and several hundred clients later, the Bolivian girl wrote back.

“Mom: I’m so angry and depressed. I’m sitting here alone, looking at the skyline, which seems to be disappearing. I’ve got all this food, but I can barely eat anything. Last week, I had to have an abortion. I know. Where is anyone? Everything is now ready.”

As the man whom the churchman had never met finished the parable in the lobby of the church in Korban, Pastor Walls walked by and exclaimed to the stranger: “Blessed is anyone who will taste freedom in the kingdom of God!”

The father of twin daughters knew what he had to do: he would be leaving Korban for Hong Kong via La Paz before lunch.

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