Some people are just good at gathering people together. They call on people and the people come. This seems to be what leaders can do – or, rather, are those people who can gather us together our leaders? People gatherers have an attraction and an authority. Whether we call a meeting or throw a party, we are acting as people with authority, people able to call on others. Most people can grow that authority, usually by the attractive way that they gather people. Conversely, we have all been in gatherings which have been so carelessly organised that we have said “never again”. There’s usually a reason why “nobody came”.
Neighbours Table tells the story of a people gatherer. In an interview with Tammy Helfrich (available as podcast), Sarah Harmeyer talks about her recent life as a “people gatherer”. She adopts a word for the year. Word of the Year 2011 was “community” which brought a vision for inviting 500 people to her table during the year. At the point of the interview, she is nearing 1500 for the 3 year period on a budget of $75 per month. She started with an invitation to a “pot luck” delivered to her neighbours. Her father made a table to seat 20 – 91 came. She suggests that people are waiting to be invited, that whole neighbourhoods are waiting for such catalysts for change, for people to step forward.
Her “manners” can guide us all. “Plan ahead to be present with people”, develop a culture of mutual respect, interest and listening, introduce people to one another by saying what you love about them – all that makes for a good time gathering. So, pause for thought. Why do we call people together? Are they just instruments to our ambition, pawns in our little games? Are we prepared for them? What is our interest in their offering? Do we know them? Do we love them?
There is always a reason why “people come flocking”.
PS People gatherers are the image of God who gathers people like a shepherd, making of them a nation and a church. Eularia Clarke’s picture of the feeding of the 5000 is a celebration of God as “people-gatherer”, recalling the feeding of the multitude. The painting is part of the Methodist Modern Art Collection, © TMCP, and is used with their permission.