One Saturday morning in Ohio years ago, I dragged two friends from their beds to head east in the pre-dawn hours. Our destination: Freeburg, Pennsylvania, the location where I found the drop-leaf table of my dreams in a small furniture outlet. "Tea table for two, dining table for eight," the online description read. Several lattes, miles, and two tanks of gas later, the table was home.
If furniture were a financial portfolio, one might say we're heavily invested in tables. There's the black round pedestal table in our kitchen, recently scarred by an exploding whiteout pen. There's the extra-wide, extra-long kitchen table in our dining room, which comfortably seats our family of seven, and can be expanded to accommodate sixteen (when we squeeze). Then there are the two dining tables in our basement I bought off Craigslist. Though they most regularly play host to puzzles and sewing projects, they can also seat sticky-fingered children for our larger dinner gatherings. And finally, there is a cherry-wood Pennsylvania Shaker table and my grandmother's blond oak drop-leaf table—as beautiful as the Pennsylvania cherry, but more maternal in shape.
Altogether, we have the capacity to seat 56 people for dinner.
Upon reading this, you may want to reason that because my home is large enough to accommodate 56 people, I must be exceptionally gifted in the ministry of hospitality. And perhaps because you live in an apartment and claim ownership of exactly two chairs (one of which is designated for your desk) and a cat, you cannot possibly be expected to welcome guests to your table. But hospitality isn't measured by the capacity you have for seating guests—it's measured by the warmth of your welcome.1