By David E. Nelson
Meals have been an important part of my life. They have not only provided sustenance for physical survival and health, but also provided social connectedness, provocative conversations, and spiritual activity. I remember fondly my grandparent’s, and parent’s dining and kitchen tables. There were a number of unwritten, but clearly understood rules which were followed. They were places where life was nurtured, identified, celebrated, and challenged. These tables were places where healing and hope soothed wounds. The tables in my childhood home were debate venues where many varying opinions were expressed and argued. I remember small tables where friendship was discovered, nurtured, and blossomed. Fondly, I recall as I grew older some of the tables where love was celebrated, plans were made, and lives were forever changed. To this day the evening meal remains a special part of each day for me and for that I am grateful.
Through the years, in my home and others, routines seemed to have changed. I remember when TV trays were substituted for our table and we gathered not to face each other, but to face the TV and watch the evening news. That loss was compounded when busy schedules intruded and meal time was no longer a time for togetherness. Life goes on and things change. I adapted and found other ways to connect and deepen relationships. However, my desire for meals where people sit down together, look into each others faces, tell stores, and listen to each other remains a priority. There have been many long drawn out meals that I will never forget. The intimacy of eating and drinking together, for me, cannot be morphed into something else.
Most recently smart phones have challenged meal time. Although I like my smart phone, it too has been a barrier recently to the pleasure of dining together. The convenience of having the world at my fingertips has benefits, but often the ability to connect with others so easily can get in the way of connecting with the person and persons I am sitting with. It alarms me when people pick up texts, messages, and phone calls when dining with me. I feel abandoned when the persons with whom I am sharing the intimacy of a meal “leave me” to connect to someone somewhere else. I know that most of the time my dining partners don’t mean to dismiss me or say that I am less important than someone else.
I am choosing to follow a new personal “rule” for mealtime. When I sit down for a meal it will be without my phone interrupting me. I will turn it off, leave it somewhere else or put it on vibrate. I will wait until the meal is over and then check on messages. The world outside the intimacy of the table will go on without me because the person or persons at my table are “the world” for me during this special time. I make this commitment to myself in order to live more fully and love with more integrity. I also invite those who are willing to share a meal with me do the same. I know it is asking a lot and I understand when others are unwilling to give up outside communication. I choose to eat appreciative inquiry meals. Would you be interested in joining me?