Do you remember the kitchen or dining room table in the home where you grew up?
Think about it while I tell you about mine. We had a small kitchen in a 1950s house in a burgeoning suburb in South Jersey. Our kitchen table was round and had just enough room for three chairs. We could pull it away from the wall and squeeze in a fourth person, but that was tight.
Our family of four had dinner in the dining room, but everything else happened in the kitchen. Everything. The prized seat was in a cozy corner where two walls came together, allowing just enough room for one chair. That spot was my dad’s. He was an early bird. We put a shelf on the wall by the table to house his beloved coffeemaker, napkins, and his morning reading material so they didn’t take up table space. His reading material was a Bible, a daily devotional, and books by C.S. Lewis.
I became a fan of “The Chronicles of Narnia” as a young girl because my father introduced me to this author.
If and only if that seat was vacant did one of the rest of us sit there. If you were sick and stayed home from school, you could sit there wrapped in a blanket and sip weak tea or a ginger ale depending on your ailment. That table was used for lunch, homework, conversations with mom, coffee with a neighbor, and sometimes deeply personal talk.
My bedroom was over the kitchen. One evening I heard voices and crept downstairs to listen. (I had been known to make this clandestine effort.) I was surprised to hear the voice of our pastor choked with tears. He had received the news that he was being moved from our parish and his wife was very angry with him. My parents were consoling him and helping him try to figure out how to navigate this unexpected transition.
Whether your table folds or is made of mahogany, whether you set it with linen or paper, silver or plastic, table talk is essential, lifegiving, a crucible for learning how to communicate and relate. It makes me sad to see a family at a restaurant all on their devices! I read about a mom who puts a basket by the dining table. Everyone puts their phone in it until the meal is over. What a great idea!
Our community needs some kitchen table talk to learn more about each other and what each one brings to the table. I am aghast at the language that is often used in social media posts, at meetings and elsewhere. The health of our beautiful, diverse and wonderful community depends on us getting better at thinking carefully before we speak and getting better at respectful disagreement. I know that means swimming against the tide of current culture. But we can do it.
An opportunity for such table talk is coming up soon. The Coalition for the Homeless of Nassau County is sponsoring An Open Table of Love and Thankfulness on Thanksgiving Day at Burns Hall of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Atlantic Avenue and Eighth Street from 9 to11 a.m. All are welcome to come to share in this meal, sit together, and get to know each other.
It gives everyone a chance to have a family type of meal whether you have family or not, whether you are housed or not.
The coalition needs help setting the table for this special occasion. It needs:
Volunteers and helpers, hungry people, decorators, cooks and servers. Please send an email to [email protected] and indicate how you would like to be involved. Please share this invitation with your friends and neighbors, church and any community organization in which you are involved.
We can get to know Jesus of Nazareth by reading with whom he sat at the table and what was discussed. He even invited himself to the table at Zaccheus’s house. (Luke 19: 1-10) This self-invitation was a radical upending of the dominant culture of attention to pride of place, religion, cultural status and occupation. The subsequent meal was lifegiving and radically life-altering for Zaccheus.
Table talk. We need it. We learn from it. Put your phone in the basket. Come together. Help us fulfill our potential as a community.