Growing up in a small town in Ohio was an enriching experience. Freedom to roam the neighborhood riding bikes, playing softball and basketball in the backyard, swimming at the local pool, playing board games with neighbors in the summer–school right around the corner. For many years we lived two doors from the library where often we spent hot summer days reading books or selecting books to take home.
During the school year it was homework first then play time. With an active family scattered in different places throughout the day, 6:00PM found us all gathered around the dinner table. Dad came home at 6:00PM. All of us were home by 6:00PM. If we were in the house Mom often rang a bell to remind us that it was time to wash our hands and come to the dinner table. It was around this table that sharing took place about the days events. One thing was clear though we did not tattle on one another or on our classmates: “what happens at home stays at home, what happens at school stays at school”, was the family motto. So conversations were up-lifting, encouraging, building us up as family and therefore building up the wider community. We learned to speak respectfully of others, not tear them down. In many ways our 6:00PM meal time prepared us for the hours and days ahead, strengthening and supporting one another and others.
I remembered our 6:00PM dinners when I read the Gospel of Mark (chapter 14) from the Christian Scriptures. Gathered for celebration the friends found strength in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of wine. What resonated the most however, was the last line of the reading, “Then after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” There they tested their humanity: tendency towards jealousy, envy, betrayal, struggle for life, decisions about supporting those in need, speaking up or running away, accusing without verifying–all the elements that go into our own human lives were present after that supper. They supported one another around the table which gave them strength to go forth and face the realities of the day. Some were able to withstand the difficult times, others were not.
I am aware that families today struggle to find a common dinner time. Adults too are running this way and that to keep up with the demands of the day. The reading from Mark invites us to realize that strength for the journey and our days–to face what may come and to support one another–is found in community where we place our energies in building up one another and not tearing down. We withhold the stones of torment and open our hands to receive the goodness of others. We face inner and outward struggles all of our lives–we work them out in healthy ways around a table of supportive people who wish to see the good in one another and not throw stones.
We embrace community finding strength to build up one another in care and love.
Blessings and peace