I burned the homemade Italian meatballs. I experiment every time with meatball recipes, still not sure I have found the perfect recipe. I was really excited about this batch. But they came out of the oven like brown golf balls. So much for writing and cooking at the same time. My dinner plan was foiled but dinner time wasn’t. It offers families time for healing, reconciliation and sharing; time at table to recollect in the heart of family life. The table is a bridge to connection.

When I saw the sad state of the meatballs, I saw dinner time in a new way. If the meal doesn’t turn out should you run for fast food? Perhaps, but come back together and sit at the table even the restaurant table. Meal time really is more than a routine task. The research tells us there are benefits to time together at meals.

It turns out that our need for belonging is nearly as important as food. Gathering for dinner helps families to reconnect and reclaim belonging. Of course, busy schedules do not always permit it and there are many distractions but the time is important. We are made to enjoy meals and the company of each other (even when we are not such good company or the kids are testing the tensile strength of spaghetti noodles).

Still, the kitchen table is the place of spiritual and physical sustenance. At the table, we can feed an appetite we didn’t know we had. Human beings hunger for affirmation more than food, many days. Our hearts sometimes ache even when our bellies are full. There is a difference, after all, between just eating and sharing a meal. We gain new perspective, when we sit at the table with others. We offer a listening ear, understanding and solidarity in the little “cell of society”, the family, as John Paul II affirmed. We change the world by sitting at the table.

Well, my family was thankful that I threw out the burned meatballs. Truthfully, no amount of marinara would make them edible. The alternative meal was less hearty but still satisfying. My kids chided me about saying what I usually say when I have critiqued my restaurant meals. “It was pretty good but I don’t think I would order it again.” The laughter, wise-cracks, teen-aged sibling rivalry, and meal sharing lasted barely six minutes. But it was worth every minute because we were together.

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