convictions & table legs & making do

So, funny story.

Yesterday, I was vacuuming the rug underneath our dining room table. As I was vacuuming, I gently lifted the corner of the table and pulled it three or four inches towards me in order to get to the crumbs hidden beside the table leg. Then I pushed it back the other direction, vacuumed again, and put the table back in its original position.

This morning, I was roused out of bed by Jonathan hollering “E!” and the crying of our one-year-old. I ran downstairs, expecting an emergency. I saw that J’s hot tea was spilled on the floor but couldn’t figure out what was actually wrong. He was just sitting at the table, as far as I could tell. (I was kind of dazed and still sleepy.) “What happened?” I began to ask, as J said, “The table leg fell off!” And then I realized he wasn’t picking up our crying child because he was literally holding the table top in place to keep anything else from falling off of it, and the table leg was indeed lying on the floor.


Our dining room table had been hiding out in my in-laws’ basement for many years before we commandeered it ten summers ago. We’d just gotten married and had no furniture to our name nor any jobs in our immediate future, so we took anything we were given and loaded it into a U-haul. Neither of us is picky, and we were quite honestly thrilled to be able to furnish that first one-bedroom apartment with very little investment on our part. I for one didn’t think most of the furniture would make it out of that apartment into our first house, though, let alone a move across the country into our second apartment and then our second house.

Ah, but much of it did, including this table.

I have never loved this table, mainly because I don’t really like the Formica-like fake-wood-grain top, but after we slathered the table legs and chair legs with white paint, the whole thing kind of perked up. A few years passed, though, and we began talking about a new table. We wanted a nice one. J wanted to build one himself. We knew, practically speaking, that it would never happen while there were more important things going on (major house renovations, getting tenure, sleeping children). So we would probably just bite the bullet and buy something we liked that would last. It would cost a pretty penny, but we were no longer fresh out of college without jobs. We could afford a dining room table!

And still we put it off.

Last year, when we mentioned the table yet again as something we might want to buy, we realized something. Our convictions about human trafficking and the supply chain of cheap goods, the economy and corporations that make cheap goods possible, the environment and landfills overwhelmed with broken down cheap goods…

well, these convictions were becoming 
more important than our taste in furniture.

You are going to say we overthink things at times. And maybe we do, but how can we mentor college students into lives of social justice and good stewardship, if we can’t be happy with hand-me-downs? How can we spend a few hundred dollars (or quite a bit more to get a really nice table, like we want to) because “we can afford it,” but happily donate an old, crappy table to Goodwill or the local homeless shelter and feel good about our decision? If it’s not good enough for us, how can I pat myself on the back that it is good enough for others? How can I blog about human trafficking globally and poverty locally, especially homelessness, and be willing to replace a perfectly good table, even if it was hand-me-down in the first place?

Or, you might say, how can we live in community and act selfishly? Which is really what we’re talking about, if we’re honest.

Somehow, the more we talked about the table over the years, the more hypocritical we felt about buying a new one. About buying new anything.

The table became almost a matter of principle for us, a reminder that we are called to make do, even when we can afford to buy better. And, let me tell you, it does not please me to make-do with Formica. Or green, stained linoleum on my kitchen floor. Or…well, the list goes on, trust me.

What I’m trying to say is that I’d be lying if I didn’t say that part of me is pleased that the table leg fell off this morning. But I can pretty much guarantee we won’t be buying a new one.

And one other thing–

Anyone have a hand-me-down table in your basement you want to part with?


5 comments on “convictions & table legs & making do

  1. Ashley says:

    We have one that you could use until you find sturdy hand me down. It’s a fold up table but it’s wood 🙂

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks, Ashley. J was able to jury-rig the leg back in place, but it’s not a permanent solution, nor a safe one for our child to be around. I might take you up on it soon!

  2. Dad (Stephen Sands I) says:

    As always my little girl, you challenge me. Thank you!

  3. Beth M says:

    \I hear you on the table… it’s the couches for me. I want to get really nice ones, but then I remember all the other more important things, and hope that one day, on craigslist, I’ll come accross something that stands in for really nice.

    Because the other thing is, community is inviting people over for sharing meals, and book clubs. And that can’t always happen on lumpy pillows and broken tables.

    But… where the line is between justifiably nice, and simply overpriced luxuriousness, is really hard for me to draw sometimes.

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