more than a meal
While I haven't lived with them now for close to two years I have gone over every weekday evening for dinner, to spend time with my son, put him to bed, and so on. Over that time there have been some pretty tense dinners. Tense dinners were the usual before I was asked to leave, forced conversation, unanswered questions. It all began to feel very fake. I believe family dinner time is important, to sit down around a table at the end of the busy day, to talk and reconnect, to transition from the workday to the evening as a family. That is not how dinners were handled or viewed though, they were viewed as an obligation instead of an opportunity. I wanted to "take them on", tell her I'll just handle dinners and the time around them, but doing so would have opened its own can of worms. Egg shells were a constant around my feet.
I believe that a meal planned, prepared, and served with love can accomplish great things and so this is something I take fairly seriously now that I am "on my own." Even when preparing a meal for myself I view it as more than doing something that I need to do in order to survive, to continue on. It is much more than that. The act of preparing the meal can become meditative for me, my mind enters that "flow" state, when both sides of the brain are working in harmony and thus in their sweet spot of operation. Anytime I work with my hands I enter this mode. Writing, leather work, wood work, even something as seemingly simple as building with LEGOs can encourage a flow state. And so, preparing a meal is more than preparing a meal. It is a chance to stop, or at least to slow down. It is a chance to put one's mind into a different mode. Certainly a mode of service, whether preparing a meal for one, two, or an entire table. We serve those we love and the care in which we prepare the meal is part of that. By extension then love is a natural by-product. And so "meal prep" is so much more than just preparing a meal, it is an expression of your love.
I don't think my mom would consider herself to be a great cook, or "good in the kitchen", but she always tries. She would complain about burning this or that but she always made another meal the next day. We always sat down to dinner together as a family. It was annoying to me then, typical teenager, but looking back I see what my parents were doing. They were using that time, the time when we were ready for that third and final meal of the day, as an opportunity. My mom used this time to ask about our days, talk about what was going on, what was coming up. My dad used the time after dinner, while my mom would start to clear the table (another act of service that speaks volumes), to read to us out of the catechism. When else would this type of conversation happened?
Even if meals are not prepared at home, those times when a break is needed and the time to prep a meal is instead spent figuring out which restaurant to go to or order from, view the time as special. View the mealtime as a sacred part of the day. However it is done, wherever it is eaten, treat that time, that time of day, the act of sitting down together to eat, as a time that is unlike any other in your day. Treat that time as the most important recurring event on your calendar. Use the time to ask questions, learn, encourage, engage, and connect. Use dinnertime to demonstrate your love.
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