Jessica - Shawnee, Kansas
Entered on May 13, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family, place
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This I Believe

I believe in sharing a family meal on a daily basis. In so many ways the communal nature of preparing and sharing a meal is an outward sign of the love and commitment between and among family members.

It’s not a coincidence that Jesus chose to impart his last bits of wisdom and foreshadow his own death and resurrection over a meal with his closest friends. The ritual of cleansing, praying and coming to the shared Eucharistic meal is completed weekly during Catholic Mass as reminder of the power of breaking bread and eating as a community.

The same scene plays out each evening in my home as we wash our hands, prepare the food, set the table, pray as a family and engage in dialogue that nourishes and replenishes the body and mind.

In our home the commitment to each other is further demonstrated as the process of preparing and cleaning up is shared among family members. My husband often carries the load of preparing the meal. Our children are responsible for setting the table and clearing their own dishes. I am often responsible for clean up and dishwasher duty. I would contend that while each of these acts are simple and mundane it’s the ritualistic process of helping each other and sharing the load that is an outward sign of a functioning, loving family.

The uninterrupted nature of the meal provides a back drop for actual listening and hopefully a lively exchange of ideas. Thirty minutes without cell phones, television, radio, email or even toys and games means each family member has the benefit of focusing on themselves and each other within the family unit. I can honestly say I learn more about my children and even my spouse during dinner than I do being with them the rest of the day. The meal offers the opportunity for the family to intersect with each other rather than operating on parallel plains of being physically together but not fully present.

Perhaps my high regard for the shared meal can be attributed to my own parents. My dad always came home for dinner, even if he returned to work later that evening. Dinner was scheduled around practices and evening events. We were not allowed to take calls during dinner. My mom lovingly prepared a well rounded meal that included all of the recommended food groups. While I know cooking had to become drudgery after decades her loving commitment to the shared meal was outward sign of her love for our family.

As with most things in my life, it all comes back to food. In this case, the meal provides the vehicle and framework in which we gain the opportunity to be a family.