For our grandparents, our parents and even for some of us who are a bit older, it used to be that this idea was a given. We all sat down together for dinner! What else were we supposed to do? Where else would we be? We probably did not realize how that time together was part of the glue, the very foundation that held our family life together. It was simply something we did every night after everyone was home from school and work. It was a part of our daily lives. A time to share and break bread and reflect together on the things that had taken place in each of our days.
Sadly, nowadays this is not a given. Of all times when this tradition should be vitally important, it is often ignored. In this modern age where we communicate so often through technology, be it cell phones, emails, social networking websites, etc., basic face to face, eye to eye, human contact is not experienced enough. But we are social creatures; we need, desire and crave that human touch, human interaction. We desire to look into someone else’s eyes and see their soul reflected there. It’s all well and good to express your feelings and talk about your day’s happenings in a quick post on Facebook or Twitter, but let’s be honest, are we completely honest in those posts? Do we really want to share with all those people our most intimate and private thoughts and feelings? I don’t think we do. And even if we do, something, by the very nature of such communication, gets lost in the translation. A smiley face cannot possibly express true, unabashed joy. In the same way, a sad face doesn’t express the true depth and breadth of sadness. Is it just a little ouch or is it gut wrenching sobs?
Who is better than your family to share these most honest feelings? Whether gathering around the dining room table or sitting on a blanket having a picnic, the mere act of sitting down with each other, passing the potatoes and breaking bread can be a healing part of our long, often arduous day. We can let our hair down, smile across the table at our spouse or children, refortify our beings-both physically and emotionally, by simply sharing that little half an hour together.
The key here is to do this without distractions such as a television or the interruption of phone calls — we turn our phones off during our meal. This is a time to focus on one another, on our family, to let each other know that the other people are more important to us than all those other things that so often clamor for our attention.
A dear friend told me a long time ago that one of the things that her grown children always reminisced about when they got together later in life was how important that family dinner time was to them in their memories. They recalled that how no matter how crazy their day had been, they knew that at dinner they would all gather and there would be someone there who cared about them and would listen to them.
Those are the types of things I hope my children remember most.
So often, we get caught up in thinking that what will matter most to our children when they are grown up and on their own will be their memories of material things we were able to give them. But when you think back on your childhood, do you remember what you got for your 12th birthday or do you remember the times you and your family were just hanging out, being together? Those happy and warm memories, they are the ones that fill you with those warm, fuzzy feelings of yesterday.
We all need a little time in our day to reconnect with other people. Life can get crazy busy, schedules often get so heavy we don’t know how to find the time, but let’s try to remember how important those face to face connections are, for ourselves as well as the loved ones in our lives, and make time on a more frequent basis, to sit down at the family dinner table together.