“You look familiar” my wife said to a woman standing in the airport out in California waiting to board their flight back to Colorado.  

“Did you go to Denver Christian?”

Through their quick discussion, my wife learned that she had attended school with Hannah’s sibling.

The conversation quickly advanced into how they had both recently given birth to premature daughters.  How a conversation moves that fast is beyond me.  Sometimes I’m shy enough that I don’t even get the other party’s name.

They quickly exchanged contact information and boarded the plane.  

Since that day, they have had numerous play dates with the kids, and a new relationship has started to take shape.

I wasn’t too surprised when my wife said, “Hannah wanted to get together today, I invited them over for supper.”

What do you do when an impromptu dinner party with strangers is sprung on you in the same way a fox attacks its prey?

Unfortunately, or fortunately, my mind wanders into crazy ideas.  How about grilled cheese and tomato soup?  Sounds good, boring, but good.  Let’s go with it and make it not boring.

Let’s do a play on a charcuterie board.  

I decided to get a couple loaves of rosemary sourdough.  Cutting them like a checker board, but not all the way through.  I made two different cheese mixtures to fill the cuts.  One was a play on fondue with mustard, the other was cheese with garlic and italian herbs.  Once all the cuts were filled with cheese I placed them in the oven to keep the bread warm and slowly melt the cheese.

I threw together a quick roast tomato and garlic soup but needed something to garnish it with.  To me, plain soups are boring, it is the garnishing that gives it life.  Here is where the charcuterie came into play.  I decided to make a salad out of a charcuterie board.  

Serrano jamon is one of my favorite slices of meat.  I wanted to play on that with current fall flavors.  I chopped the ham up, and decided to soak it in some fig butter.  Here in Colorado melons are delicious in the late summer and fall.  I used some cantaloupe and honeydew to give it some freshness, sweetness, and color.  To counteract the sweet of the figs and melons I cubed some pickled cornichons to add in.  Chopped some pistachios for a good crunch, and put a little lemon juice and zest to blend it all together.

Now that dinner was ready, it was time to get to know my wife’s friend and her husband.  Thank God dinner was ready, and we had plenty of beer and wine to make getting to know them that much easier.  Sometimes my introvertedness comes out in force and I need little things like that to put me at ease.

Tyler and Hannah were very similar to us, white, christian, middle class, American.  Quite boring if you ask me.  But I like to dive into things understanding that I can learn something from everyone I meet.

After starting with the typical get to know you questions that seem to plague and stagnate every conversation, we started to get beneath the surface.  They were fascinated with the fact that my wife and I had grown up Mennonite.  They were confused as to why we look and dress the way we do because they were familiar with Mennonites from the hit show Amish Mafia.  

I find it interesting, and I’m just as guilty, how people make vast generalizations based off of minute understandings.  It must have something to do with the way our culture is becoming more and more polarized, opinions are being misrepresented as knowledge and fact, and everyone feels compelled to evangelize their own personal facts.  

You see, Hannah is Russian Orthodox, which with my limited understanding, I would assume she would be very conservative and dress as such, to the extent of looking like a Russian babushka.  Someone that I typically wouldn’t go out of my way to get to know.  But she wasn’t, and she didn’t.  I’m so grateful that I didn’t let my limited understanding of her belief system become a boundary to getting to know her.  

She actually is a clothing designer and has her own successful brand, Luba, named after her Russian grandmother.  She is the more liberal half of their relationship, and had very interesting perspectives on different issues raised throughout the evening.

Tyler is the debonair, boot wearing child charmer from California.  He is has a law degree but works as a financial analyst.  Immediately I made the assumption that we wouldn’t click, that I was going to struggle through an evening.  I’m glad that I’m diligently working on not letting assumptions get in my way.  Parts of Tyler reminded me of my younger self, which got me reflecting a lot the more we got to know each other.

I used to be socially conservative and convinced that finance would save the world.  I was so full of cool aid that I had a constant stomach ache.  Everything was black and white, right and wrong, and I had all the answers, especially when it came to justifying my self righteousness.  I’ve began an undoing process, undoing belief systems, learning to be ok with being wrong, or having both sides be right.  Learning to find the beauty in differences, in imperfection, in things not like me.  I’ve also started to see true colors of people in the industries I wanted to be in, of people that I’ve looked up to, and have been forced into questioning everything.

The thing I learned about Tyler is that he is so far ahead of me despite being younger.  He was comfortable with being sure of something, but open to questioning it, open to dialogue, open to others opinions without taking offense, or being insulted.  Definitely not what my assumptions would have had me see.

As usual, our conversation ran the gamut from politics, God, religion, Heaven/Hell, fashion, real estate, finance, children, parenting, parents, food, cooking, college, relationships, etc.  Differences of opinion were rampant, but respect, understanding, and consideration for the other seemed to stay in the forefront.

What has happened in our culture that has caused this to be rare?  Why have we allowed ourselves to be conditioned to thinking dualistically, binarily, in black and white?  Why have we abandoned the entire color spectrum to force ourselves into justifying our rightness thus creating other’s wrongness?  Why do we make assumptions without getting to know the other’s story?

I thankful that my wife ran into Hannah, and that she had more courage than I usually do to chat with someone she didn’t know.  I’m thankful to have started a relationship with Hannah and Tyler, and thankful to be put into a position to reflect and to learn.

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