“There is no doubt that is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society are created, strengthened, and maintained,” says Winston Churchill.
Home is sweet home; there is no place like sweet home. “Home is the place where, when you come there they have to let you in,” says the well know writer Robert Frost. Sweet home is much more than knick-knacks and relics. Family, kin and friends, in a world that is as real as complex, are not incidental social artifacts. The good, the bad and the ugly, form the basic unit that everyone belongs to, or desires to belong to- one of the few human conditions that are universal. The Aryan inscribes in one of the oldest literary books, Atharva Veda, “I will make you of one heart, of one mind and free from hate; love one another as the cow loves the calf she has born. Let the son be loyal to his father and of one mind with the mother; let the wife speak sweet and gentle words to the husband; let no brother hate brother not sister hate sister; unanimous, united in purpose, speak you words with friendliness” (Atharva Veda 3,30).
The more the world shrinks, the more one becomes distant from one’s own. Modern technology is a double-edged sword. Superficially it links, but fundamentally it alienates. It is an addition to an overabundance of options that excuses one from making an effort to nurture human contact.
Installing a sophisticated modern technology will alert others - beam images and sounds ensure a virtual table-mate. So one sees what the other is eating, exchanges words and enquiries if the salt is fine. Great indeed! But what is the use of an image if one cannot share the proper smell? Do children experience the warmth and human touch of their parents? On a more shared practical note, what is the use of this thing if time zones dictate that one sleeps while the other eats?
The virtual meal is a precious time. The occasion when we share the ups and downs of life with our own kin is during meals’ time. It is being advertised as a universal remedy to the modern-day condition in which many families are scattered across the globe and cannot be in communion; thus lacking the real love of God, which children do first experience from their parents. One in London, another in California and the other in Mumbai, comes together ay meal time, one plate heaped with different gorgeous items. But each one is left hungry for companionship and love. There is a big vacuum left in the heart, mind and soul. What can fill that gap? Is it pleasure or money or latest gadgets or gold…? That void cannot be filled by anything except warmth, love and touch of our parents and loved ones.
Installing the latest modern technology offers a substitute but can never measure up to physical interactions and warmth. A hug confers warmth but not a handwritten note or phone calls or visual internet phone calls. A phone call facilitates speech but cannot eliminate emotional distance. A meal might be taken together, but cannot satiate our longing for love. Some things always belong to the realm of the human contact and love; nothing can substitute that.
Finding time to spend together as a family becomes very difficult in this complex world. In many a household, either parents have to go for work or children have to go to school or tuition or other activities, this prevents them coming together to spend time with each other as a family. The deep familial bond has faded away nowadays. Children grow up with the feeling of being unloved and uncared for, which often leaves deep scars their minds and character. One easy and effective method or occasion to convey to children that they are indeed special is to dine together. Dinner taken together has the divine power of strengthening the bonds of love among the family members. There is an axiom that, “The way to a person’s heart is through his or her stomach.” A meal prepared with love and eaten together has all the ingredients necessary for making a happy and sweet and healthy family, home and society.
Sharing a meal is not merely eating some delicious food that is set before us; but it is an investment of time for the wellbeing of the family. Socrates, the famous philosopher rightly reiterates, “If I would get to the highest place in Athens, I would lift up my voice to say, ‘What mean ye, fellow citizens, that ye turn every stone to scrape wealth together, and take so little care of your children to whom ye must one day relinquish all?’” An important element in the upbringing of children is investing in quality time with children. Being available to one’s family members is the most valuable gift we can give and receive from one another.
Meal times also provide a perfect ambience to dialogue with one another. When our parents pay careful attention to what the children are saying; these feel assuring that parents are genuinely concerned about what is happening in their life. Sharing of ideas, jokes, plans and progress, joys and sorrows of the family members can take place at the moment of the meals. The wave of distant communication may be very strong, but physical warmth has its zenith at the time of meals.
Dining together is a precious moment where the entire family can invoke the divine. A prayer of grace before and after the meal will create an attitude of gratitude and graciousness in the family to God. A child, who experiences such exhilaration at the dining table, will surely and steadily learn a lesson to appreciate life and become as asset to society.
“Where family prayer is daily said, God’s Word is regular read, and faith in Christ is never dead, that is a Christian home. Where family quarrels are pushed aside to let the love of God abide ere darkness falls on eventide that is a Christian home. Where joy and happiness prevail in every heart, without a failure and thoughts to God on high set sailing that is a Christian home. Where Jesus Christ is Host and Guest, through whom we have eternal rest and in him are we forever blest, that is a Christian home,”( author unknown).