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PENNING: Tempting Tables offers elegant encouragement

• Oct 12, 2017 at 3:00 PM

They came as a complete surprise — the gorgeous plants we found on our front porch. One was a huge pink azalea, along with some gift cards, delivered on a lovely day in May.

Then again last December there was a beautiful winter arrangement in a frosted vase, arriving the day of our wedding anniversary, and just after my wife’s eighth surgery related to breast cancer.

We did not know the person or persons from whom these delightful gifts came. We were guessing it was friends from church.

For a moment, my wife thought the one on our anniversary was from me. I was honest and said no.

But we learned that they came from an unusual and delightfully positive organization called Tempting Tables. We don’t know how they found out about us. It could be from a photo of my wife in the paper when she ran a local race and had a sign on her shirt about her breast cancer. Or it could have been someone connected to the organization who knew us and kept their lips sealed. Whatever the case, we were pleasantly surprised and grateful.

My wife had actually attended one of their events in 2015. She took a lot of photos to show me the displays of various themes, some quite humorous. She enjoyed the event in its own right, but also the cause for which it is created. It is a showcase of complex “tablescapes” — elaborately designed table settings that go beyond crystal and china. They are more like art gallery, museum or juried art show displays. The biennial event also features personal collections of various items.

Or, to put it succinctly from the Tempting Tables website: “an extraordinary biennial event featuring exquisite table settings and unique collections benefiting breast cancer research.”

I am not the type of guy who is in to this sort of thing. It’s enough for me to remember where to place the knife, fork and spoon. And I usually find the sofa more tempting than the table. But I admire this organization because their mission is to create greater awareness of breast cancer. They do this with their event, and the proceeds go to breast cancer research organizations here in Michigan.

They also have a “Dream Fulfillment Fund,” which provides gifts to women currently going through treatments for breast cancer. That’s why my wife received the gifts on our front porch.

I can tell you that both times the gifts were a surprise and a tremendous encouragement. The beauty of the flowers and the thoughtfulness in their arrangement and unexpected arrival gave us another needed reminder that we are not alone.

Sometimes I get cynical about all the efforts to “raise awareness” of breast cancer. It seems anyone and everyone can slap a pink ribbon on their product, storefront or clothing. I wonder if they are actually doing any good for breast cancer programs or if they are hitching a ride on a popular cause and trying to benefit their own reputations. I actually read an article about that in a media ethics journal recently.

But the Tempting Tables event is one of quality, in my view, for several reasons.

One, it’s elegant, and if you know a woman with breast cancer you know the disease can take a lot of dignity and femininity away. This is a fine event, suitable for real ladies of class.

I also like the event because it’s more than a piggyback effort. There are lots of volunteers and donors putting in considerable time and effort to make this all happen. It shows a level of commitment to the cause that goes beyond what sometimes is suspected as mere lip service.

I also am impressed that the benefit is real and local. They give tangible encouragement to women, like my wife, who are battling breast cancer. They also go beyond “raising awareness” to fighting this terrible disease through research. Their website has a link specifically for updates on breast cancer research, including profiles of several doctors who are on the case.

So, yes, Tempting Tables is doing it right. They are setting the table for awareness and action to beat breast cancer.

If you want to go this year, the series of events are Oct. 18-21 at the Holiday Inn in Muskegon. There is a patrons’ event Wednesday evening, and then the exhibits are open Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can also consider volunteering or making a donation. More information and tickets are available at www.TemptingTables.org.

— By Tim Penning, Tribune community columnist. A collection of Penning’s columns in the book “Thoughts on Thursdays” is available at The Bookman.

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