Updated: Jun 9, 2022
There’s been a death in the family. It’s not the kind of death that we have to dress in black for. We don’t have to send casseroles or flowers to extend our most sincere thoughts and prayers. It’s a death that has been overlooked. And it’s the death of the dinner table.
Years ago, many families came together after the work day to share a meal together. This sit down meal provided a time where stories from the day were shared, updates on how the school day went (“We didn’t learn anything new, Mom.”), and other topics were thrown about the table while mashed potatoes were being passed. It was a time to truly get to know the people around you and your family members. Looking at current social trends, have we glossed over the fact that many people no longer sit down for meals together as a family?
In 2020, we live in one of the busiest eras...or at least we’d like to think so. We puff our chests out and brag about our chaotic schedules. We cram meetings in whenever we can and are constantly available because of the technology driven world that we live in. Our phones are always in our pockets and we panic if we are running low on battery. We can be messaged at any time of day and there’s this pressure instilled in many of us to respond right away. We don’t want to be seen as lazy. The more hours we are putting in, the more successful we must be, right? What have we given up to achieve this success though? Family time is beginning to suffer.
Author Alice P. Julier wrote a book titled, Eating Together, and in her book she mentions, “when people invite friends, neighbors, or family members to share meals within their households, social inequalities involving race, economics, and gender reveal themselves in interesting ways: relationships are defined, boundaries of intimacy or distance are set, and people find themselves either excluded or included.” When we don’t share meals together, we are robbing ourselves of getting to know the people around us. It gives us a chance to hear different perspectives and stories. We are thieves of stories that are longing to be shared because it’s not seen as convenient. We’d rather read about it on Facebook than hear the story directly from the person sitting across from us.
If we don’t agree with someone’s story or opinion, we just have the opportunity to scroll past them or “unfriend” them. We want to be known and understood, but only from the likes of a screen. What if we invited the people we disagreed with over for a meal rather than battle it out with them in the comments of a meaningless Facebook argument? Do you think we would begin to act more civil with one another? Would the concept of having more sit down meals together at the dinner table bring real community about?
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for the simple fact that the day is surrounded by a meal shared together at the table. There’s no pressure or expectations of presents. There may be pressure of making a meal the “correct” way, but that’s a conversation for a different time. It’s a time where everyone slows down and is able to gorge themselves to the fullest knowing that they can pass out on the couch later guilt free with the football game on in the background. Every Thanksgiving, I try to pause for a moment to take in the voices around me and to really hear the stories being told by my family members. They may be the same ones every year with a little new wrinkle thrown in here and there, but it’s through those stories that we are able to connect. It’s the act of rubbing elbows together after grace is said and reaching for the last dinner roll. There’s something beautiful about the chaos at the table.
What if once every week, we were able to treat at least one night like Thanksgiving?
Acts 2:46 (ESV)
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts...
I understand that we are far from the days of the Norman Rockwell paintings and that we live in a different time, but wouldn’t it be nice to not always be on the go? I find myself often romanticizing the past, but I wonder how lives would be changed if we had more sit down meals together. Instead of rushing about to pack our schedules, what if we said “no” to more fast food nights and “yes” to more nights in? I think we would begin to notice a change in how well we know our family members, friends and neighbors.
The dinner table can be brought back to life and it all starts with just sitting down for one more meal a week than you normally do. Maybe you commit to always having a sit down meal together on Sunday nights. Invite a friend over that you know lives alone and ask them to pick what you’re cooking that night. Knock on that neighbor’s door and see if they’d like to come over for a meal sometime. The “Mayberry life” many of us would like to lead isn’t too far off and it all starts with a simple breaking of bread at the dinner table. Who are you going to invite for a meal this week?
P.S. - if you're looking for a good book to read, I'd recommend A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester