A Tribute to Dinner-time Debate

Someday I am going to write a brilliant essay on the link twixt dinner table discussions and the making of people with opinionated and highly convicted souls. I have a sneaking suspicion of late, you see, that much of my vim for ideals and zest for life came from the rollicking discussions (i.e., friendly arguments) that took place on a nightly basis in my growing up years. I cannot help but wonder how much of my thought has been formed in the candlelit half hour after dinner. It’s something that’s on my mind a good bit of late as I ponder the importance of family and community to the shaping of culture. I was reminded of it again tonight when friends came over and we just happened into a debate about “calling” and “vocation”, followed by a hearty wrangle over the heart religion of John Wesley. The candles guttered low, our latest mountain storm wailed out the dim window and we talked the evening away.

I suppose my interest in the family tradition of discussion is piqued again because of my renewed appreciation for my family and the gifts of thought and heart they passed on to me. It is highly fashionable of late to reach the teen and early twenties years and make the supposedly cathartic move of rejecting much of one’s childhood values. I think, to an extent, I was tempted to this especially in the area of family opinion. I wanted to have my own, quieter, more introverted thoughts. The temptation to autonomy in this particularly individualistic culture is strong, especially when the rest of the family would like to argue you out of it. My brother once spluttered in mingled pride and exasperation that “you know, we’re like these big, noisy families you see in movies, like the family in Big Fat Greek Wedding, or wait, I know, the mafia.” Hmm. Perhaps a slight exaggeration.

And yet, in a strange way, I’m proud of us; proud even of our likeness to those infamous, noisy families. For like them, we have a current of shared thought, strong convictions, a hearty way of seeing the world and believing any idea to possible. Even in my more autonomous teen moments, those ideas and convictions held me to a way of living that has brought me into the sunlight of the present with a strong heart and steady mind. In those dinner time hours, comforted by feasting, gentled by candlelight, my belief was forged, my ideas tested, refined. And I am finally coming full circle, realizing how blessed I am to have parents who wanted to engage my mind, to have the freedom to bandy thoughts, to speak doubts, to experiment with my own new-grown intellect.

So this is my rather random tribute to the family dinner table and its endless debates. To the color and life, the sparkle of argument and words. To my parents, willing to engage the growing minds of their children. To the hours of words woven into ideas, I pay my tribute with a wakened soul and mind. Those hours have formed this living heart. May you all find the same in your own home, on a stormy, candlelit evening of your own.

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8 Comments

Filed under Musings, Random (and I do mean random) Thoughts

8 responses to “A Tribute to Dinner-time Debate

  1. I had planned to get offline but when I read your post, I knew I must make a comment.

    At my daughter’s wedding reception, she thanked her father and me for growing up in a family where books were important and for all the “discussions” at the dinner table.

    I didn’t know we were doing anything special at the time. We just loved to read, observe live, and chat with each other.

    Sigh, Stephanie and I must have tea with you and your mother when we reach that Eternal home when busy-ness will be no more.

  2. Conversation time with family like you’ve described is a true blessing. I still cherish the versions of such that shaped me. Thanks for writing.

  3. Gabriela I. Leal

    I praise God for you and your family. You have inspired me! I can’t wait to sit at the table with my family with this new appreciation. Love, Gaby

  4. Hi Sarah 🙂 Thank you for sharing this. I’m enjoying your blog! Love, Q

  5. I pray that as my boys grow up that our family will be similar to yours around the dinner table and in our everyday life. Standing for God, in our convictions, glorifying Him to the end!

  6. Melody

    Sarah, Such lovely words. Very inspiring. It makes me realize that our family is on the verge of a change. My oldest age 11 is now looking at pursuing a career in Ballet. I know our days at the dinner table are numbered. And the older she gets the fewer they will be. The rest of the little ones in the family can barely remember to remove their plates from the table as they wipe their hands on the front of their shirts. As our times now at the dinner table are filled with how to behave properly. I think that I will try to slow the business of the day, by dimming the lights, so I can not see those hands being wiped on shirts. And change our dinner time by adding 10 more minutes to our schedule. Although the children usually jump up from the table, I’ll see if we can slow our time down just a bit. I may need a nightly dessert to hold their attention longer. But I desire to create some of these lovely moments before our time is lost.
    Thank you. Your words have slowed me down. To stop and to think. And to make a change. I guess over the summer somewhere we lost the atmosphere.

  7. Noisy, talking, debating (loving) families are wonderful. I’m part of one myself and already see my three little ones becoming part of that heritage. They’ve already perfected the art of talking loudly 🙂

    That said, I had a close relative (not one of my parents) tell me when I was 13 and had ventured an opinion on nuclear war, “Sarah, unless you know what you’re talking about, you shouldn’t try to speak your opinion.” It was like being slapped in the face–I’ll never forget it, and I’ll never say the same to my own children. Letting them speak it, wrangle with it, even if it’s incorrect or under-formed, is what makes them passionate, clear-thinking adults later on. It wasn’t a good experience, but it taught me volumes. What a blessing a family who eats and talks together is! One that’s becoming rarer, I think.

  8. This is such a delight to read and an inspiration to we parents as we forge ahead! *THANK YOU!* for sharing it! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

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