If you were having a dinner party and could invite four people from anywhere and anytime in history, who would be on your guest list, and where would you hold the dinner?

Every once in a while, I’ve had to answer questions similar to this – usually in a Toastmasters Table Topics session or contest. But this time, it was during a Holiday Happy Hour with a writing group I belong to. There are actually two separate groups, because the first one was growing too large to accommodate everyone comfortably and effectively. Since few people know everyone in both groups, we were each given an “icebreaker question” when we arrived, in order to introduce ourselves to each other and get lively conversations started. Not that a group of writers really needed this.

When someone asked me the dinner party question, it took no time at all for me to come up with the first person, perhaps because this was a holiday party and Christmas was fast approaching.

“Jesus,” I answered immediately. After a moment’s thought, I decided I’d also ask him to bring the wine, and I’d see if we could hold the dinner at his place.

Gandhi was the next name on my list. I’d love to experience his wisdom firsthand, and also to tell him how often I quote him in my coaching and speaking. I try to live by his motto, “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” and I also agree 100% with his statement that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Mother Teresa would also be on my list – and what a joy it would be to insist that she simply sit down, enjoy herself, and let others serve her for a change. I suspect that she wouldn’t sit still for long, but I’d still do my best to take care of her the way she took care of so many people during her life.

It would be nice to have some musical entertainment, so John Denver would be the last name on my guest list. I don’t know why John Denver popped into my head just then, but I’ve always enjoyed his music and his philosophy about nature and family, so he seemed like a good choice to round out my list.

Someone else at our holiday gathering said she would have invited Cleopatra, Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, and Joan of Arc to her dinner. Although I didn’t think of any of those women as I was compiling my list, I thought those were really good choices. I didn’t feel the same way when someone named Stalin as a potential guest, until she said that her reason for inviting him would be so she could learn what went on in the brain of the man who was responsible for the deaths of more people than anyone else in history. I expected Hitler to be the next person she named, but he wasn’t. The other people on her guest list were Jesus, his mother, Mary, and Louisa May Alcott,
the author of Little Women.

It occurred to me that even though the question was meant simply as a conversation starter, it was a fascinating exploration into how each of us thinks, and what it is that influences the choices we make. Everyone agreed that we’d enjoy being at each other’s dinner parties, and also that our own choice of guests would be totally different if we were asked the question on another day, or even at a slightly different time.

Who would be the guests at your dinner party if you could invite four people from anywhere and anytime in history? Try to figure out not just whom you would invite, but why. You might surprise yourself with your answers.

And you might try asking this question at your next holiday gathering. It’s inspiring food for thought.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on December 13, 2012.
©Betty Liedtke, 2012

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