by Harvey Yoder
In our busyness, preparing and sharing family meals can become just another task on our pressing to-do lists. We simply want to make the process as efficient as possible.
But family dinner can be far more than just a time to satisfy our physical hunger. Mealtimes can be primary ways of fostering good eating habits and significantly adding to our social and emotional wellbeing.
According to parenting educator Michael Grose the most important factor in preventing anxiety and depression in children is being part of a family that has at least five to six stress-free meals together a week, with television and other communication devices turned off.
Family meals can also help increase our appreciation for the gift of food itself, and for the many everyday laborers around the world who have made it possible.
But how do we get everyone involved in some good table conversations?
If all else fails, the iMom website is one of many that offers some good conversation starters, such as the following:
1. Tell us about something nice you did for someone today.
2. If you had three wishes, what would they be? (You can’t wish for money!)
3. Would you rather be able to fly, read minds or live to 100?
4. Can you name the favorite color, author and food of everyone at the table?
5. If you could snap your fingers and be anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
Family meals can also help increase our appreciation for the gift of food itself, and for the many everyday laborers around the world who have made it possible. We take time to not only thank God for our daily bread, but to be mindful of where all of the food on our table has come from, and how many hands have had a part in harvesting, packaging and delivering it.
We might also reflect on the fact that all of the meat, vegetables and fruit of the earth provided for our tables has literally given up its life to make our existence possible, thus making our meals a kind of eucharistic (communion) experience. In other words, we can think of God being present in the gifts of life-giving bread and drink.
Finally, as we partake of our fair share of the world’s “daily bread,” we want to be aware we never partake of the earth’s provisions alone, but at one big table with all of humanity, receiving God’s everyday manna together, an amazing grace indeed.
So with this article, after nearly 26 years, I sign off with a sense of regret that this is the last issue of Valley Living. My sincere thanks to founder Eugene Souder, Melodie Davis the editor for many years, the Board, and all who have helped make this magazine such a blessing to our community!
Harvey Yoder is a family counselor and teaches parenting and marriage classes at the Family Life Resource Center. Questions relating to family concerns can be addressed to FLRC, 273 Newman Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22801 or to [email protected] His blog can be followed at harvyoder.blogspot.com.