They all rushed into the kitchen as the aroma of dinner hit upstairs. Tuesday evenings are the one night where everyone seems to be home for dinner. This Tuesday even Pete made it home from work in time to sit down with us. Family dinners are so important, yet all of our busy schedules hold us back from enjoying time together. We usually begin our dinner in prayer, but lately I have found that by the time I get to the table my kids have emptied half of their plate, so I tried a new tactic. Last night instead of praying together in the kitchen, I opted to pray at the dinner table (once everyone had sat down). Guess what I found? My kids and Pete had started eating without me and without praying! I started the prayer and they immediately took the shovel out of their mouths and looked at me wide-eyed. “Oh yeah, the prayer,” they said. I might have mumbled something in my head like, “Yes the prayer and you started eating without the cook (me) and God included. You are all in big trouble.” Fortunately, I am pretty sure it was all going on in my brain and not out of my mouth. Thank goodness for the tongue taming I learned in that James bible study!
On to the dinner conversation, most evenings it is like pulling teeth to get my kids to talk about their day and what they enjoyed at school. That didn’t seem to be the problem last night. Nope, quite the contrary. In fact the conversation was going so well, UNTIL, someone mentioned something about sickness. I am not sure how it came up. I might have said something about our friend who is suffering deeply with the respiratory flu. Anyway, the subject of the stomach flu came upon our table. Next thing I know we are all reliving old stomach flu episodes and laughing about sickness in our home. Sounds disgusting right? For a moment I stepped away from the table and just listened to them all giggle about Megan getting sick at a basketball game and how TJ never makes it to the toilet. Yuck I thought. What if someone walked into our house and heard all this conversation about stomach bugs. Even Katie (my seven year old) was getting into the conversation. Her topic – I am not even going to discuss it because it is WAY too gross. The laughter filled the room. Smiles were abounding around the dinner table. Instead of taking their plates to the sink and going to their rooms. They took their plates to the sink and came back to talk some more. What was up with this? The evening was everything I dreamed of as a parent; conversation, food, and family. Why did the topic have to be so obnoxious? I guess beggars can’t be choosers. I had been praying for the day to come where we all could really enjoy each other’s company; the moment that as a family we all could sit down and find a topic that we all can relate to. Be careful what you wish for…
Fr Leo Patalinghug, author of Grace Before Meals came to our church to speak about the importance of the family dinner. Fr Leo appeared on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and became a nationally known speaker shortly after his appearance. Fr Leo quotes on his website http://www.gracebeforemeals.com , “Grace Before Meals is centered on one fundamental concept: the simple act of creating and sharing a meal can strengthen all kinds of relationships. Research has been done to show that the family that eats (and prays) together will stay together, so it is our mission to give families the tools they need to come together at dinner time and be nourished- body, mind, and soul. Luckily, these “tools” are simply delicious and easy-to-make recipes, ideas for talking together, and prayers to bring God to the table.”
I wonder if the ideas for talking together included the stomach flu? My guess is just the very act of my family sitting down to a meal created an atmosphere of love and openness. My kids felt free to talk about these funny events (maybe they weren’t so funny at the time) with their family. My guess is they probably wouldn’t have talked about them to anyone else, but they felt free to speak at that dinner table because it makes them feel comfortable, loved and part of a team. That “team” is how we battle through life. We use our family “team” because no matter how good of a player you are, you are always invited to be on the team. Nothing you do can ever move you away from the team. Nothing you do will ever be unforgiveable. The family team loves you no matter what. In fact they love you so much that we can laugh at all those horrible stomach flu episodes. We have shared moments that were so deeply personal that a bond was formed that cannot be broken. We know the inside and outside of each other. We see the bad and the good. You know what? We love each other despite of it all.
Sitting together for a family meal just strengthens and reminds us of that bond. We are so fortunate to have each other. Meals together reiterate that. How many times do your kids have team dinners before a big event? Why do they do this? Because it brings the team together as a strong unit. It reminds the team that they are in this together and together they will go out into the world and do their very best. That is what our families should do. We are in this together and we will go proclaim Jesus’ message to all.