"AT THE TABLE WE ARE EQUALS."
Is there anything more common than a table? Every home has one, at least. Restaurants have numerous tables. Your favorite coffee shops and brewpubs have tables. Your workplace has a table. Parks, libraries, churches and schools all have tables. We even turned a three-foot-tall wooden jerk box at my gym into a table.
I eat three meals a day at a table, oftentimes four. I work from a few different tables throughout the week and I’m currently writing this at a table. In a given month I drink countless amounts of caffeine and craft beer at, you guessed it, a table. I even built a handful of tables this year.
Despite the commonplace of the table in your life and mine, connecting with neighbors and building community around these tables is sadly uncommon and often a difficult thing for most.
The reason for the hard shift from an all too common, inanimate object to the phenomena of fostering existing relationships and forging new ones is due to the fact that these two are hard to separate.
Oh, the Humanity!
Author Wendell Berry, in his book Bringing it to the Table, wrote, “You can eat food by yourself. A meal, according to my understanding anyhow, is a communal event, bringing together family members, neighbors, even strangers. At its most ordinary, it involves hospitality, giving, receiving, and gratitude.”
A common meal has this ability to bring people together and connect us in a very subtle, unassuming way. A bit of mystery in something mundane. At the table we’re compelled to share the salt and our stories, to put our phones down and opinions out there. Grabbing lunch with coworkers always comes with a free side of empathy as we ask, “How’s things?” and then listen to others and learn what life is like for someone other than ourselves.
Meals war against our impulses to retreat and spur us on to interact and engage with those around us. At the table we relearn that spending time with people is better than getting lost in our phone apps.
In short, meals are communal. And since we’re communal beings, sharing meals together is an imperative if we want to maintain our humanity or better yet, flourish.