We live in an increasingly disconnected world. While everyone is walking around with a device which allows for instant information and communication, we are becoming more and more disconnected from one another. We are communicating more by text messages. There is less phone conversation, not to mention face to face conversation. People routinely allow all of their time to be spoken for and seem to have less time available for just being with someone and talking.
The absence of personal contact has a corrosive effect on our well-being. Our inner life. Our hearts.
Also contributing to our loss of connection is a routine or practice regularly sacrificed on the altar of busyness – sitting down to eat. In our culture we eat more and more of our meals standing up at a counter or while riding in our car, and fewer of them around the table with others. And even when we eat with others it is often a hurried experience frequently interrupted by our devices telling us we have a text or a picture we must look at immediately.
Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash
We can return to the table. Eating meals together around a table is an almost ancient practice. A comfortable setting and a good meal eaten around the table with people who are glad to be present is a wonderful experience. It is good for conversation, expressing desires, sharing experiences, comforting someone, celebrating, being present and engaged.
I believe when people come to our home and sit around our table, I have a certain authority. If I am intentional about creating a setting where conversation is welcome and respected, I can exercise my hospitality and authority to stimulate and direct the flow of conversation. In such a setting, I can introduce a question or a challenge which allows everyone to be engaged. A question which is connected to desire, or to hope. If I am with friends, I might ask a question about a trouble or sorrow I know someone is experiencing and the rest of us can listen and offer our responses in a loving and compassionate way.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Being around a table like this offers a chance to suspend time for a while. As a host, I can practice a calm, unhurried attitude toward our meal. If Diane (my wife) and I show no sense of hurry to finish or move on, our guests are given the choice to relax. We can eat slowly while conversing. I can clear the plates and make sure people are comfortable and relaxed. Conversation can go on longer than usual, dessert and coffee can be served. The discussions can go deeper. Celebration, vulnerability, affirmation, sharing, laughing, listening are all ways we connect deeply with the others at the table. As the host I can have a lot to do with creating and guiding that dynamic as the meal takes place.