The Stage is Set


“Dinner is not what you do in the evening before something else. Dinner is the evening.” – Art Buchwald

What was your family like around the dinner table when you were growing up? The answer to that question depends on how old you are, what generation you belong to…before or after handheld technology. That time around the dinner table helped to make you who you are and shouldn’t be discounted as something that just happens on it’s own.

More families today spend less time than ever gathered together around the dinner table during the week. All kinds of experts (even me) believe that the diminishing of this social practice is bad for our physical, moral, psychological, social and spiritual health – as individuals and a society.

A very interesting brief piece about this topic can be found here: A History of the Family Dinner in America

In general, family time together is shrinking. Today, that sort of time seems to be concentrated around carpooling to after-school activities and working together on mountains of homework. We are together trying to solve problems, driving around in the backseat and often plugged in to our devices.

Casually sitting around the table, reflecting on the day, listening to each other and providing guidance and feedback is one of the most crucial daily activities that families engage in.

Think of all that has come about to change the family dinner table:

  • The microwave and fast food
  • Cable TV turned on all the time
  • Cell phones
  • Afterschool activities (careers)
  • Mountains of homework
  • Single parent families
  • Two-career families

Do you think the day will soon come when most of our children will only gather around the table during special occasions and holiday celebrations? Will families only come together at inconsistent times and never know the rhythm and flow of daily gathering and sharing? Will children one day grow apart from their parent(s) too soon and lead lives much more independent than is healthy simply because their family cannot find the time to put everything else aside and be together?

There’s a Family Dinner Project working out of Harvard. It’s aim is to help promote the practice of family dinner by providing resources.

What makes us live lives that are self-destructive? What makes us raise children in ways that aren’t the very best? Why have we built a world in which we have to slowly kill ourselves in order to survive it? No one does any of this on purpose. Life just happens.

What about living your life instead letting your life live you?

“We can surely no longer pretend that our children are growing up into a peaceful, secure, and civilized world. We’ve come to the point where it’s irresponsible to try to protect them from the irrational world they will have to live in when they grow up. The children themselves haven’t yet isolated themselves by selfishness and indifference; they do not fall easily into the error of despair; they are considerably braver than most grownups. Our responsibility to them is not to pretend that if we don’t look, evil will go away, but to give them weapons against it.”  ― Madeleine L’Engle

About Randy Wilson

Professor of Sociology at Houston Baptist University I read, think and write about religion and culture in the United States. It's very interesting and very complicated but incredibly exciting. For many years I have been trying to figure out how people learn best (my students and myself). The classes I teach are always in a state of experimentation - trying to reorganize around what students bring to the table and where we have to go.

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