The Power of Dinner
A 13 year old girl drowned. My 23 year old son John and his girlfriend Sarah, came over for dinner tonight to talk about it. We ate sitting on the floor at a short table that keeps everyone close and connected. The food was simple, the conversation was not. John and Sarah had been camping together over the weekend. The 13 year old girl, a stranger to them, had stepped too far out into the river and got caught in a swift current which soon roared under a boulder. Sarah’s cousin grabbed her and pulled her away from a certain death. But minutes later, she was back in the dangerous area. John saw her and shouted for friends to grab her again. This time, they couldn’t hold on to her. She was swept down the river and pinned under the boulder. Her parents screamed from the shoreline. It took a trained team hours to finally retrieve her body, the currents and rocks perilous for the workers John explained.
I sat and listened to them share the tragic tale. I asked questions. I passed the food. We ate slowly. I listened some more. We talked about life, fate, God, and choices. It didn’t matter that I am not Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart. What mattered was that we were sharing life’s basic elements, food, water, and our hearts. We eventually shoved the dishes aside and put my laptop on the table so they could show me pictures of the deadly river. The table held more than our food, it held us together, cradling us as we helped each other bear the burden of the story.
The power of the dinner table has long been overlooked in our culture. Mom’s and dad’s are exhausted after a long day at work. But the dinner table can be a soothing balm to the weary, a chance for each other to rest in the care of those they love. Each can nurture the other. Our children need for us to hear them at the end of the day, and we need them to hear us too. Dinner can be simple. But the conversation should be as complex as it needs to be.
If you have stopped having dinners together, do what you can to set aside a few nights a week to join each other at the table. Sit with open minds, open hearts, and relish the day you just lived. Share your truth and listen to the truth of others. No judgements, no unasked for advice given. Simply hold each other’s truth with respect. Put away the cell phones, and don’t look at the clock. Let the experience unfold as it needs to.
When John and Sarah were done with their story, I put the dishes in the sink. We sat on the couch, still not ready to leave the company of each other. When they did leave, I looked at the dishes in the sink. There will be time tomorrow to do them. I wanted to simply sit and give thanks that my four children are still alive, and able to share simple meals and their truths with me.
My heart goes out to the family who lost their precious daughter.
I wish your family the peace and comfort dinner together can bring.