Do you remember this? You had to come to dinner every night. You had to be on-time. Before you sat down at the table you had to wash your face and hands and brush off your clothes.
Every family member sat down to dinner at the same time every night of the week.
All of the food was on the table. Dishes were passed around with a big spoon for scooping up your portion divided by the number of mouths around the table. When you tried to skip the peas, you got a commanding lecture.
You were asked how your day went and what was bothering you. You could have an excuse not to be there, but it had to be a real good one. The next day at dinner you had to give an accounting of that place, who was there, what you did and how you felt about it.
You couldn’t talk back or make a smart remark.
You also could not walk away until you were excused.
So what did we get for all the trouble it took to participate in this somewhat repressive ritual? We learned to have a day that was valuable, reportable to people who day after day showed us how concerned they were about our lives. Relatives who we saw everyday and who cared about us.
We learned to talk to others openly face-to-face about how we feel and get their feed-back, perspective, validation. We learned to mean what we say and say what we mean.
Back then we called it Integrity. Now, they call it “being real.”
Except for some very fortunate households, on the whole we no longer practice this ritual nor any of the virtues attached to it. Perhaps we need to consciously decide what kind of world we want to have going forward. I want to suggest that we ought to make a conscious decision about how we want to relate to one another.
Those nightly dinners fed more than our bodies.