Thursday, September 2, 2010

Spirituality and the Supper Table

When I think about spiritual practices, I usually think about things that are hard, like meditating for an hour or two a day. I think about things which require me to remember to do them throughout the day, like the Liturgy of the Hours. I think about things that require a class, like yoga. I think about activities that require vigilance and discipline, like fasting or doing volunteer work.

But what if a spiritual practice was as easy as rounding everyone up for supper? I can hear the protests now: since when is supper simple?

An article in The Washington Post argues that too many of us have made our at-home dinner obligations too complicated. We try to duplicate meals that we'd be served in a restaurant. We need a pantry full of esoteric items to complete our recipes. The article urges us to return to the strategies of our moms.

Our moms, the article posits, had a few simple recipes that they knew that hungry children would eat. The article interviews a lot of these moms, now in their 60's and 70's. Many of these women had simple strategies, a variety of them, easily adoptable these days.

And why should we do this? We can consult any number of social science research that shows us how valuable the evening meal is. Children who eat at a communal table do better in school, do better at resisting peer pressure, just do better overall.

With a bit of tweaking, we can use the evening meal as a spiritual training ground. We can begin with saying a blessing, thanking God for the food, and praying for those who don't have enough food. We can talk about the right ways to behave as we talk about how we spent our days. We can encourage compassion in our children, as we talk about the ways of the world. We can talk about where the food comes from and how we need to care for God's creation that gives us nourishment. We can foster responsibility and good stewardship patterns as we clean up after the meal.

So, as September begins, it's time to plan ahead for dinner. Soon our schedules will become cramped and challenging. It's time to decide on some simple recipes that we can cook week after week, so that supper isn't sacrificed.

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