By Carolyn Tomlin
“What greater blessing to give thanks for at a family gathering than the family and the gathering…” Robert Brault
Many families recall a time when the traditional family meal was a part of every Sunday. After everyone attended church, we returned home and the relatives came. They came in their church clothes—those reserved for Sunday. They brought baskets of food, including fried chicken, garden tomatoes ready to slice, corn on the cob, and fruit cobbler—depending on the type of fruit that was available at that time. Not one, but two, three, maybe four generations gathered together around the kitchen table laughing and talking for an hour or more. Then, the men of the clan pulled out the hand-cranked ice cream freezer and turned homemade custard into the most delicious icy dessert you could imagine.
In most communities, those days are gone. Families live in distant places. Everyone is too busy. We have “things” to do.
But what if you could change the way of getting together? Most families still honor the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. What about at least once a quarter plan a Sunday dinner for your relatives? Instead of thinking of all the work, change your attitude and make it a fun experience where everyone is involved. Consider these reasons to bring your family together.
- To share your family history. Designate one person to talk about their side of the family each time you gather for a meal. Pull out scrapbooks and photograph albums. Encourage questions. Interact with relatives who may know additional information. Record conversations. Videos are easy to make with a Smartphone or recorder. Create an interest in your heritage by checking family records in the U.S. Census, your county courthouse, cemetery records, and online data. This information will be valuable for students who want to make a school presentation about historical events known to their family.
- To communicate with several generations. Narrow the gap between the younger and older relatives. A recent study by Home Instead Senior Care Network recently conducted research that shows 92% feel eating with multigenerational family members is a good way to reconnect. Remember those in nursing homes or assisted living centers. If possible, bring them to your home for the meal. If this isn’t feasible, have several relatives visit in the afternoon.
- To worship together as a family. Try to avoid anyone staying home to prepare for Sunday dinner. Instead, participation is the key. If some of the clan lives away, invite them to arrive in time for church services. If this is your family’s home church, inform your pastor this group will be in attendance. Claim this verse for your family, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:15, KJV).
- To stay connected. Desmond Tutu, retired Anglican bishop from South Africa said, “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you.” When troubles come in a loving family, you do not stand alone. Others are there to share the burden and love unconditionally. This is what family is all about. How do you stay connected to family members living away? Use Skype, a free Software program that allows you to see and converse with others. Or, make a video and copy to a DVD and send by snail mail.
- To encourage conversation. There’s nothing that compares with positive conversation when families gather. Learn to phrase open-ended questions, instead of questions that only require a “yes” or “no” answer. Requesting that everyone either turn “off” their phone or leave them in another room, keeps interruptions to a minimum. Relating family stories often brings out even the most reluctant individual. Give everyone a chance to respond to events or occasions they remember—maybe a childhood memory, maybe a life-changing event, maybe a twist of fate. At this time—for this meal—being together takes top priority!
The Bible reminds us that God planned for families. Take pride in being a descendant and learn more about your ancestors through dinners together. Narrow the gap between the youth and older relatives. Work together to build a strong multi-generational clan.
Carolyn Tomlin writes for numerous magazines. She teaches the Boot Camp for Christian Writers. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org