Dudley Shoals is a small town in North Carolina nestled among green rolling hills with winding roads and beautiful mountains as a backdrop. The sunsets looked photoshopped, fireflies are so abundant they make the fields appear as a lighted carpet, and back porch sitting with friends and family is a daily occurrence. I recently visited my friend who lives in this wonderful little town. I enjoyed my time with her more than she will know, and I returned to my crazy life with a renewed sense of the importance of family. Every Sunday after church, my friend has Sunday dinner at her house. It started many years ago with their immediate family, and has grown to include anyone that wants to sit at their table—everyone is welcome. They take turns providing the main dish and others bring the side dishes. No planning goes into it, it just happens every Sunday, just like going to church. She never knows how many will show up, but there is always a seat for them when they do. My friend has battled cancer twice, been through chemotherapy twice, lost her hair twice, had major surgery twice and through it all, there was Sunday dinner at her house. And while many may think that’s a bit much when going through something as traumatic as she did, the love and support she felt every Sunday from her friends and family is one of the things that kept her going. When her world was turned upside down by cancer, Sunday dinner was a reassuring constant in her life.
Once upon a time, families did this every Sunday. But our lives have become so scattered that we find it difficult for our own immediate families to even have dinner together around the table every evening. Think about Thanksgiving and Christmas, when family is together. When we are children, the fun is in the gifts, but as we grow older, we learn to appreciate the time spent conversing and laughing over a meal. It is a time for grandparents to hold their grandchildren, for siblings to tell stories of their childhood and cousins to form bonds with each other. Those times only come twice a year, and as I get older, I realize that’s not often enough. My grandparents are gone, my aunt is gone, my father is gone and I’ve lost several friends. How I would have loved to have had Sunday dinners with them and been wise enough to listen to their stories and appreciate the time I was given to spend with them. Our society lost a lot when we stopped gathering around the table. We lost communications, we lost family values, we lost the sense of family and community, because family isn’t always blood. We can right the wrong we have done. A great starting point is turning off the television and cell phones, and adopting a tradition of dinner around the table.