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The Real Tea Party: An Allegory

By Traci Hendrix

A tea party? At church? Wow! Too cool! What a great Idea!

My exact thoughts when I found out they wanted to have a tea party for the children. It would be great fun to dress up, make kool-aid and cookies, and use cute little cups, definitely a great idea! I pondered how to have fun with the kids - we don't have to have everything be so spiritual, do we?

I started preparing; we might as well make this as real as possible. I sent out invitations, RSVP of course. They were exquisite linen paper with ivory embossed swirls twining around fruits of the spirit - Love, joy, Peace and so on. I had the printers print the invitation in the deepest scarlet red they had. They read:

You are cordially invited to attend this years Kingdom Children's tea party at First Church, 3:00 pm. Formal attire. Please RSVP.

Most of the children had parents who would help them if they couldn't understand.

I called the church caterer to see if he could help with the preparation. I had different cookies in mind, all ones the children would enjoy, but I didn't want them to look too different; fighting isn't something I do well, not to mention, there's always fighting among the church members, so the fighting menu is well covered. Cookies, yes the caterer said he would take care of the details. I sighed with relief knowing there was one less detail I had to maintain.

Next was the linen, tables, chairs, china, and silverware rental. Like I said, if you're going to do something, do it right! I talked with the rental agent, and had to sit down when she told me the final cost. I didn't expect such an expensive price, nor was I sure I could commit to that! Maybe I could skimp here, and maybe use the chairs and tables they use every Sunday - they were a bit run down, but they weren't falling apart, were they? I didn't think so. Last time I was there, they were pretty sturdy, for children's furniture. If we're going to have a tea party, we can pretend right? Do we have to have the china, silver, and linen? I scanned the phone book for the local party store.

Making my way home from the shopping trip, I was quite proud of myself! I'd managed to find everything I wanted, with not too many problems. I made one last phone call to the caterer and nudge parents with RSVP's.

A few days later, I started getting envelopes in the mail - RSVP's! Finally! I rushed to read them, to find more regrets than confirmations. I was a bit disappointed, but I thought we'll have a great party anyway.

The day came, and I was a nervous wreck.

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I'd dressed in my finest gown, white satin with rhinestones and feathers. I was stunned that it fit so well. I could turn some heads in this, and thought "too bad I'm only going to entertain children!"

Oh well, maybe soon I'd have someone to make jealous with this dress.

When the appointed time came, I made my way to the church to make sure everything was set. The caterer, as usual, had done a wonderful job. The tables were done in ways that made me wonder if they were real or not. They had tiny pieces of candy over them, and a motif of tea and cookies drawn on butcher paper. Perfect for pretending! I checked on the refreshments, and they were perfect as well. Just as I thought they should be. I sat at one of the tiny tables, in a chair that wasn't quite ready to hold my weight, and balanced the budget. The Children's committee would love this! I was well under what I was allowed. It didn't look like the invitation suggested, but it would do...After all they're children, right?

One by one, my partiers arrived. They were adorable in their frilly dresses and nice suits. One by one, they sat around the table, and started fidgeting with the tablecloths. After we said grace, we started serving.

I wasn't planning on the next few things, and I was quite upset when they did happen. The girls started throwing their tiny cups of kool-aid at the boys, and the boys were smearing mud they'd brought in on the white frocks of the girls! We had mass chaos! I was glad then that I'd chosen a basic cookie, so there could be no misuse of the bread. Or so I thought. The bread found it's way into the kool aid, and in the hair of the girls, with mischievous boys running hollering in glee. I stopped the ordeal, oblivious to the stains on my own dress, and self-righteously proclaimed, "This is NOT appropriate behavior for Christian children!" I was appalled! They came to MY tea party and acted like this! I would talk with their parents! I made my way to the phone to call and insist they collect their children. Since we had money left over I decided to call a company to clean up, and I went home; I needed to relax.

The next Sunday, I avoided the parents who did allow their children to come to the party. Instead, I went to those who didn't allow them to come. I insisted on a reason from each of them. They had different things, like birthday parties, family reunions, sporting events, homework; the list of excuses went on. Yet, there were a few who'd told me they were invited to another tea party, one where they were taught about God without using the Bible; where they were allowed to use the good china, and didn't have to dress up, they didn't have to pretend. I couldn't imagine such a thing. I threw my nose in the air, and insisted they were only pretending as well. They didn't need to go to that tea party if they were going to use their imagination as well.

I went home, disappointed and close to tears. I couldn't imagine a tea party where someone didn't pretend. I wondered, after a while, if they would let me come and observe after a time. The host and hostess were more than happy to allow me to not only look on, but also participate. They told me the history about the china, who'd had it over the years, and how it had come into their hands. They told me about the recipe for the cookies and the tea, and how it had been in the family for years, but more than that, they didn't use the Bible to give an understanding. They showed the qualities and teachings without having to pound it on the table. It was much more gentle and encouraging than I could have imagined. I started comparing this experience to my own tea party, and found vast differences.. Their cookies were real, and had a meaning behind them, which made them much more interesting, and tasty. They served real tea, not kool aid, and they used real cups too. Not the teeny half-swallow things I'd found at the party store.

I went to the parents of the children who'd attended my tea party, and apologized for making them pretend, and for getting upset with them. I realized my tea party had no meaning whatsoever; of course they were going to act like children. I drove home, and started looking through my closet for my comfortable clothes. I needed a hug; it was only then that I noticed my own dress. stained beyond belief. I decided to throw it away, and get another one, to start fresh. But one that wasn't quite so.. enticing. If I was going to attend the real tea party, I didn't need anything nearly so showy. I could be myself.

I can't say I never thought about the mishap again, but those who hosted the real tea party didn't bring it up. In fact, I had so much fun; eventually I was able to laugh at myself for attempting to pretend the tea party was something it wasn't. I did learn my lesson about pretending, and being real.

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