Over the past year, I’ve watched close friends and family members deal with cancer. Some of them were able to defeat the disease while others succumbed to it. This journey has kept me on an emotional roller coaster of joy and sadness. I’ve laughed heartily and cried deep tears of sorrow. But through it all, I’ve learned one major lesson – life is too short.
We only have a limited amount of time to spend with our loved ones. It’s crucial that we make the most of it. But sometimes we allow busyness, outdated conventions, and some of our beliefs keep us from enjoying life to its fullest.
I’m often reminded of a story I heard long ago. It’s about a family that had a tradition of cooking a ham for Thanksgiving. Each year, the wife would cut about an inch off each end of the ham before placing it in the oven. After watching her do this for many years, the husband asked her why she always cut the ham.
“That’s how my mom always cooked our hams,” she explained.
Not satisfied with that answer, the husband decided to call his mother-in-law to ask her. When she heard the question, the mother-in-law chuckled and said, “I cut the ends off the ham because my oven was too small to fit a whole ham.”
This story illustrates how we end up doing things without even realizing why we do them. We can no longer afford to blindly walk through life. We must be more intentional with our actions. We must make our loved ones a priority and learn to turn mundane tasks into memorable moments.
News of Ebola, wars, and terrorism is enough to make you want to lock yourself in the house and never leave. But we can replace fear with love. And, as I’ve been sharing throughout my partnership with Barilla and Share The Table, that love can start at the dinner table.
After much personal reflection, I’ve decided to do a few things differently to create more special moments with my friends and family.
Eat in the Dining Room
When we first purchased our house, my wife and I spent an inordinate amount of time visiting furniture stores searching for the perfect dining room table. We had thoughts of entertaining and planning parties that would put the Great Gatsby to shame. Guess what. Those fabulous parties never came to pass. Our beautiful dining room table only gets used twice a year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, after attending The Family Forward Conference on behalf of my partnership with Barilla, my mindset changed. I spoke with a family there and they told us that they eat in the dining room at least once a week to make dinner time more special. That family inspired me to start using our dining room table more than just on holidays and I started to realize it did help make mealtime more meaningful for my family and another way for us to engage with one another. Sunday dinners have always been special to me, and now I plan to make them more special by serving them in our dining room.
Use the Good China
While attending Oprah’s Life You Want Weekend, I listened to Rob Bell share a story. When he and his wife were engaged they went shopping for dishes. To his surprise, his wife selected two sets – everyday dishes and fine china. After many years, he realized that the fine china was simply collecting dust in their china cabinet. One day, he decided to use the china to serve breakfast. Although his wife was mortified, his children were thrilled. Now he wakes up every morning and serves breakfast on the fine china. His story taught me the importance of breaking convention. If eating eggs and bacon on fine china will bring some joy to my family, it’s well-worth doing.
Dress Up for Dinner
One of my favorite episodes of the Cosby Show is one where Cliff is teaching Theo how to carve a turkey. Although that storyline was hilarious, the thing that impacted me the most about that episode was that the whole family dressed up for their holiday dinner. Although I operate a men’s fashion website, my dinner time attire sometimes consists of t-shirts and sleep pants. Many of us have “good” clothes that we wear for work, parties, or events, and clothes that we wear at home that would never see the light of day. You don’t have to wait for a holiday to wear your nice clothes at dinner. Even if it’s only once a month, designate a date to dress up for dinner. Seeing everyone dressed to the nines will make your meal even more special and memorable.
Invite Friends and Family to dinner
Have you ever run into a close friend that you haven’t seen in a while running errands and said to them, “I’ve been meaning to invite you over.” Stop thinking about it and do it. One regret that I have is that I didn’t spend enough time with my friend James before he died of cancer. Don’t live life with regrets. Spend as much time with your friends and family as you can while you still have the chance.
Encourage One Another
Although we don’t do it as often as we should, my family has a practice of encouraging one another during dinner. We go around the table and say one nice thing about each person. No matter how badly our day was, these words of encouragement have the power to feed our spirit and lift us up. It’s so important to let our loved ones know how much they mean to us. The dinner table is a safe place to do it.
Join the conversation: How do you generate discussion around the dinner table? Share your ideas in the comments section or Tweet me with the hashtag #ShareTheTable.
Disclosure: I’m a paid Barilla Ambassador.
Photo by David Goehring