By Anne Wilson
My 80-something Benedictine nun friend Judith says that we need to feed each other.
She’s not talking about a literal feeding but about what my mother would call “rattling some pots and pans.” Judith says when we do this, we have an intimacy and connectedness that we don't have otherwise. We have a different and important application of love.
This conversation was about 10 years ago and in reference to a dinner club I started. She was urging me to promote participation from everyone, male and female – for their sakes. I thought the concept was odd. Years later, after the small group of 14 weathered 3 divorces, multiple deaths, a bankruptcy and common estrangements, I think I see.
I also see after having numerous dinners with my friend Jan who has been hosting me in her home and "feeding me" for years. I really can’t explain it but Judith is right. It’s almost mystical. Good food spurred long conversations about life and God and politics and family. This sharing and connectedness would not be possible without Jan’s homemade spare ribs, enchiladas, Matzo Ball soup (when I was sick) and mushroom ravioli (when my mother died).
Think about the time when someone cooked something special for you. How did you feel?
Because I grew up in a cook’s home, I had a clue about what Judith was trying to tell me. Cooking was my mother’s creative outlet and she was good at it. Every day was like Christmas dinner. Gorgeous hand-made, heart-driven full-course meals fit for kings and queens. I knew she was making this effort because she loved us. Because she loved me. And she used food to help me feel special. For example, when I returned home from college abroad, I remember the sun streaming in on the beautifully set breakfast room table and the sweet smell of the hot, crisp, golden brown homemade Belgian Waffles with REAL mildly sweetened whipped cream and strawberries prepared in my honor. This isn’t gluttony - even though it may sound like it. This is love. And I felt loved and connected.
I wonder if we could change the world at dinner time? I wonder if more people truly shared dinner if we would be a more connected society with richer relationships. Dr. Guy Wench says in Psychology Today, "Whether you are lonely is not determined by the quantity of your relationships but by their subjective quality -- by the extent to which you perceive yourself to be socially or emotionally isolated. You might live with a spouse or spend your days surrounded by colleagues and yet feel extremely disconnected, empty and unwanted.”
I wonder if he would agree with my version, "Whether you are lonely or not is determined by the quality of your dinner time..."