Forks on the left, knives on the right with the spoon placed next to it, napkins go underneath the forks. My mom's instructions on how to set the table were clear and carried out nightly from the time I was about 8. There were notable additions in the event of a fancy dinner party, salad forks added to the outside of the dinner fork, and sometimes even extra plates, water glasses next to the wine glasses etc.
Meals were important, the table mattered.
I remember rolling my eyes at her somewhere during high school as she lamented my schedule of school and church activities interrupting the tradition of family dinner together; from my perspective the family dinner table felt insignificant in comparison with the belonging I was experiencing with my group of friends.
I can remember when that season gave way to living in my own apartment and the loneliness that came with all my independence. I often made a dinner out of yogurt or a box of macaroni and cheese. I had little desire to cook a full meal just for myself. There was no internet, no FaceTime or Skype, no way to experience the virtual community that is so easily available today. I was squarely faced with my need for people and community beyond the interactions I had at work each day.
Today it is easy to avoid what I believe is an inherent need for every human being.
Ultimately, virtual community leaves you alone. There is no warmth to a virtual hug, no salt to be tasted in the emoticon with tears, no sensuality that leaves your body resting in the goodness of having shared physical space with people who care for you.
We need sensual, shared, embodied experiences with laughter, joy, sorrow, grief, pain and pleasure to know we belong and are loved.
I carry on the tradition of setting the table that my mother started with me nearly 50 years ago. I've taught my kids where the forks and knives go and when we are all home eating together at the table is something that is anticipated. Those times begin in the kitchen and culminate at the table. My kids love to help cook, actually what they love is the conversation that happens as we chop, sauté, blend and boil things together in the kitchen. The conversations are savory and the stories rich and deep.
I feel passionate about restoring the the goodness of real connection and pushing against the addiction of virtual community. My desire is for the internet to be a place that helps to facilitate the growth of real community. So much goodness can come from what starts via a Facebook page or a following a blog or online magazine; Instagram can inspire and twitter can provoke. When we allow what gets inspired or provoked to lead us to the place of face to face engagement transformative growth is possible.
Returning to the goodness of the table where all our senses are invoked as we taste, see, smell and listen to all that is present seems like such an easy way to feed goodness to our hungry hearts.
If you want to feed your heart some good food consider inviting some people over for a meal or ladies risk hosting a Red Tent Dinner, I'd love to hear about it if you do.