Let’s make time for the people who matter most
A recurring theme in today’s culture wars is dinner.
Actually, it isn’t. And that’s the point.
For the most part dinner just happens. It’s rarely an event. We don’t gather together so much as occupy space near one another. Sometimes.
More often than not our attention is fixed elsewhere. It may be on the TV, or with our tablet, or in a never-ending series of posts and texts to your “friends.”
In fact, many of us have become so transfixed with creating a life of faux celebrity through the cataloging of the many “special” things that happen in our lives that, when given half a chance, we would rather have dinner with a real celebrity than with our own family.
This phenomenon was brilliantly captured in an advertisement for a food manufacturing enterprise in Australia.
It asked several moms and dads who they’d like to have dinner with if they could invite anyone in the world, living or dead. The results are what you might expect in a hypothetical situation of this sort.
Except for the surprise ending, captured in the responses of each couple’s children whose notion of celebrity falls a little closer to home.
This is something you must watch. It will take less than two precious minutes of your time….
(For those of you looking at a blank image, click here.)
It turns out that many of our children would rather spend time, quality time, with mom, dad, sisters, brothers, and the whole range of messy extended family than with the celebrity du jour.
It turns out that’s where they find meaning and make connections that matter – with the people who matter most in their lives.
And it turns out this is surprisingly simple to accomplish.
All you have to do is make dinner an event – a sacred event – each and every day.
In this case sacred doesn’t have to mean anything religious, or even quasi-religious, although you can do that if you like.
Sacred means that you sit down for dinner together every day, no matter what.
It means that you turn off the TV, put down the phone, and talk to those at the table – and no one else.
There will be happy times and sad times. There will be long periods of awkward silence, especially in the beginning.
But, over time, the conversation will become easier, the laughs more frequent, and the love will grow.
These are the people who matter most in our lives. Not Justin Bieber. Not even Pope Francis.
The people who matter most, the ones we absolutely must make time for, are your husband and wife, your mom and dad, your children, and everyone else in your family. Even Uncle Ernie, who makes funny noises at the most inopportune moments and is otherwise a grump.
Now this is when I must pause and acknowledge the quiet rumbling in the background. The voices of protest who say, “But, I don’t have family.”
“They’ve moved on.” “It’s just me and my wife now.” “I’m all alone.”
It’s a real issue. What about those of us whose children have grown and live far away? What if I don’t have a spouse or a partner of any kind, what can I do?
The answer is that dinner remains sacred. No matter what.
In our case, we’ve gone from a family of five to just the two of us. Yet we still make time for dinner together every night. There’s no TV or distractions of any kind. Just us – and hours of conversation.
We often invite friends and neighbors over. To share a glass of wine and a meal.
In fact, there’s a a new word – framily – that describes such a blending of friends and family. These are the friends we choose when our blood relatives aren’t nearby. Especially as we age, this is the support group that helps to sustain and nurture us. And we them.
We are social creatures, after all. And our sacred rituals, like dinner together, need not disappear with the departing relatives.
Even when the children are young and the house is full, and all they want to do is be with their friends, invite your children’s friends over for dinner. It will be a new experience for them – sitting around the table and actually talking to one another.
These are the people who matter most in our lives – our family and close friends. These are the people we want and need to spend time with.
And one of the best, and easiest, ways to do that is to make dinner a sacred, special event each night.
Being at the table, together, is all we need to slow down and lead a full life. Those nearest to us are the only celebrities we care about.