What did you have for lunch last Wednesday?
A sandwich? Leftover pasta salad? Can’t remember? Neither can I.
The survival imperative of eating can make the daily routine of it wholly unmemorable. But there is so much more to food than its caloric necessity.
Now, who did you eat dinner with three years ago on December 25th? On your 30th birthday? At your best friend’s wedding?
I bet you remember those names and faces, pieces of conversation, shared jokes and ante-upping gags.
People coming together to share a meal is an act as old as humanity and a staple across all cultures. For all our differences, there is something universally recognizable – something deeply human – in the ritual of a collective meal. The fixings may be different but the ingredients of love and community are constant.
Food brings us together
From ancient harvest celebrations, to medieval banquets confirming diplomatic marriages, to the modern institution of capital ‘B’ Brunch, food is both a symbolic and material means of bringing people together.
Whether the spread is an elaborate feast as part of a significant cultural ritual, taco Tuesday with mom and dad, or a shared pouch of goldfish crackers on the playground, breaking bread with others nourishes more than just our bodies.
Sharing a meal is a unique and important way in which we create, nurture and sustain relationships with one another. It’s a means of sharing culture, showing love and building community.
When we share a meal, we also share the best of our culture – of who we are. Offering guests something to eat is a universal sign of hospitality. It’s a symbol of generosity and an invitation to community.
Offering food is a show of welcome and goodwill and accepting it an act of gratitude and fellowship. In this way, sharing a meal with others is an act of belonging. As social creatures, the need for a sense of belonging is hardwired into us. We hunger for companionship. A shared meal is one of the ways we satisfy this emotional thirst. Research from the University of Oxford confirms that eating with others can improve a person’s overall happiness, life satisfaction, and sense of community and wellbeing.
The work involved makes a meal is a demonstration of love and commitment by those who put it together. Look no further than your own grandma, abuela or mamani, and you’ll know that preparing a meal is an expression of love.
The shared effort to dine together also affirms the social commitment of all who contribute to the meal. Bringing a dish, helping set or clear the table, pouring the wine, keeping the conversation – these small acts all affirm the commitment of those gathered to one another. These small services are also small acts of love.
Gathered together with people we hold dear – or those we don’t know well at all – eating together is a powerful way to connect.
Between bites, diners can talk, listen and learn about the lives and hearts of those gathered. Meeting on equal ground to share nourishment and conversation, we can come to better understand one another. As those gathered share their stories, a shared meal can remind us that we are more alike than different.
At the dinner table, networks of friendship and support can take root, grow and strengthen.
CityKidz Starts with a Meal
At CityKidz, we understand the power of a meal to nurture relationships and grow community.
At every weekend program, youth helpers, volunteers, staff and supporters embody our culture of faith, hope and love, to provide nearly 1,600 children with a warm meal before our interactive show. Everyone works together to prepare and deliver food and snacks to each child and every child in attendance.
In this way, the CityKidz community – children, volunteers, staff and youth leaders – have an opportunity to affirm their fellowship, show love towards the children, and connect and better know one another. Eating together also gives them a quiet moment to sit and connect with the children.
During this shared meal we have a unique chance to sit and talk with our CityKidz children; listen to their dreams, worries, interests and needs; and give them special care and attention before the fun and excitement of the program picks up. In turn, the kids come to see that we care, and will be there in their moment of need or celebration. They see that they are loved, that they matter and that they can be hopeful.
Breaking bread together affirms to everyone in our community know that they belong and are part of something bigger than themselves.
Share a Meal
We hope that this Thanksgiving, as you gather to share a meal with your family – whatever that looks like for you – you will treasure the moment and approach it with love and gratitude.
We would also like to invite you to share a meal with our CityKidz children. It is the generous financial support of people like you who make it possible for CityKidz to share a meal and nurture supportive relationships of hope with every child who comes through our doors.
Your gift of $40 will provide a child with a meal every time they attend CityKidz until the end of June. This Thanksgiving, tell a CityKidz child that they are loved and that they matter. Say it with meal.