Sitting in a restaurant recently, as I looked around there was the all-too-familiar scene of people engrossed on their phones. One young family in particular caught my attention. The mom, the dad, the young teenager, and his younger sibling sat with their heads down, buried in their devices. They spent nearly half of their time together looking down, fixated on their phones, only to look up when the waitress delivered their food. As they ate their meal, they shared a few words, then one by one, as they finished eating, they went back to their phones.
As I dined alone, I was also on my phone. I thought, who am I to judge? We are all doing it! We are all so connected to our devices that we are blinded to those right in front of us, not taking the time to connect, listen and learn about each others lives.
We seem to be forgetting the importance of connecting with each other around the table. We are missing valuable opportunities to connect and nurture relationships with those closest to us, to take time to focus on the rather than our all-important cell phones. We seem to be losing the art of conversation.
While our electronic devices certainly hold an important place in our busy lives, today what could be more important that time with family and friends. Precious moments that can never be replaced.
I grew up in the era of Sunday Suppers, nightly meals together around the kitchen table, and monthly pot luck dinners in the church basement. At the heart of each of these traditions: food, family and friends, conversation… and community. They were places filled with people who cared about each other, places where we celebrated, laughed and mourned together. They were safe places that invited conversations, encouraged discussion, and created an opening to listen and learn about life from one another. Adults and kids connected with each other, built deep and lasting relationships. We belonged to family, to community. We knew, valued, and loved them for who they were. We could rely on each in good times and in bad and we could trust them to listen and care about our hopes, dreams, fears and concerns. And we knew that we would consistently prioritize quality time together – regardless of how busy we were.
My concern is that in today’s tech-heavy environment, we are all (kids and adults alike) spending far more time communicating with our devices than we are with each other.
My concern is that the daily practices of meaningful conversation around the kitchen table is becoming lost and being replaced by prioritizing screen time over face-to-face time with our families and friends. We seem to be losing touch with things that really matter for happy, healthy life… love, friendships, acceptance, and belonging.
All is not lost; it is simply a wake-up call for us to consider downsizing screen-time and prioritizing family time. The upcoming holiday season servces as a gentle reminder of the importance of families and loved ones gathering around the table – not just to share food, but to share in each others lives, reconnect, and make new memories.
It is never too late to reinvent your life and to start a new year-round tradition – nightly dinners around the kitchen table where we take time from our busy lives and make time for each other. After all, what could matter more?
Rita Wilkins, “The Downsizing Designer”
P.S. For those of you who know me, you know how passionate I am about bringing back the kitchen table conversations to America. I would love to hear how you are making this happen in your own lives.