This Saturday, we packed 20 people into our living room for an Ayyam-i-Ha party. Grownups mostly in chairs. Kids mostly on the floor. Some of us were left hanging around in the doorway. Standing room only to see the accomplishments of our junior youth!

They were splendid! They performed their skit about working to improve the world for the next generation. They recited. They spoke from their hearts. They improvised. They sang.

And their parents, grandparents, and siblings really responded. It was the first time these families had all gathered in one place. They were so happy, and so proud!

I loved it!

1. I loved connecting with families on a level that wasn’t about me at all, nor about logistics and permissions.

2. I loved that the youth saw these very different adults from very different aspects of their lives reiterating the same messages together. What a powerful experience in a culture that teaches them to compartmentalize their learning and their lives!

3. I loved learning what it takes to host a gathering of this size in my home. More dishes, more cups, more plastic wrap, and more organization than I ever imagined. If it hadn’t been for all the amazing help we had from our team, the whole event would have been a disaster.

4. I loved how connected the families felt to the group, even those who knew little about it, in the beginning. The girlfriend of the father of some of the kids decided to come and help out next Saturday. We had never met her before this weekend.

5. I loved learning more about the group. Who is fearful of new foods and who dives into a bowl of North African stew with a sense of adventure. Who acts shy in the presence of family but outgoing among friends. Who helps clean up afterwards without being asked, and who helps care for the younger children like it’s second nature. Meeting in a new context brought all kinds of different facets of their personalities to light.

6. I loved the collaborative effort. Between Jef’s map of the bus routes and legal parking near our building, Farah’s games, Sunni’s cooking, and Mozhdeh’s keen eye and dishwashing prowess, we pulled together something wonderful.

I’ll admit, as an introvert, that I found it overwhelming. I spent the two hours immediately afterwards dazed on the sofa with a cup of tea. I was so glad to be in a place not crowded by bodies and talking and tasks to be accomplished quickly in order to avert catastrophe.

But was it worth it? Building real community through friendships and partnerships always is.

And I’ll certainly do it again.