Recently, my sons have been excited for this new phenomenon we call “family dinner”.
I know, I know. It is important to sit and eat dinner with your children, but it is not always easy to do. We all get home between 5:30 and 6:00 PM on weeknights. The boys are, of course, starving even though they have already had one or more snacks on the way home. And they rush in immediately saying “I’m hungry” on repeat until food is placed in front of them. So, we feed them fast. I, however, like to cook detailed healthy meals that take time. So, after they are fed, bathed, and put to bed… I start cooking (unless my husband is grilling). And then, maybe an hour later, we finally eat. It has been like this for a long time.
Sometime during the Fall, however, I stopped wanting to cook on Friday nights. So, I asked my husband to get us take out food and then we could all sit down and eat as a family. Once I got a taste for this ease, I started to request it every Friday night. And, during our bedtime routine of prayer and exchanges of gratitude for the day, my sons started to mention “family dinner” as one of the things they were most grateful for. So, we started trying to cook earlier on Saturdays and Sundays too.
The first day we did a family dinner with home cooked food, I roasted some potato slices in the oven as I always did when it was a part of my meal. I put olive oil and lots of cajun spice on them and slipped them into the oven. Then, at dinner time, I placed a few on each of their plates. In turn, they each eagerly picked up a potato and put it in their mouths only to spit it out in disgust…. Ok, maybe one spit it out. Another waved a hand in front of his face as if quelling fire, and the third desperately searched for water promising to try again if his mouth cooled down.
“What’s the problem?” I asked. My husband looked at me with a look that said “You seriously don’t know?” It took a minute for me to realize that what I considered to be delicious and the only way to eat potatoes was not a sentiment shared by my boys. I learned in the process that maybe a little has to change about our usual menu for us to eat a “family dinner” that all can enjoy.
I may be out in left field on today’s readings about justice as I relate this story. But something struck me as I read today’s Gospel about salt and light. The truth is we are, in fact, the salt of the world. If we lose our taste for faith and justice, we will be bland and useless to everyone. We are, in fact, the light of the world. We should definitely not hide our light.
But maybe we also need to consider not setting other people’s mouths on fire with our salt or blinding them with our light either.
Are we shining our light in a way that both honors who God made us to be and honors the person(s) around us? When we shine our light and add our flavor to the world, are we doing it with others in mind? Are we asking how our light and our flavor can combine with the lights and flavors around us to make something beautiful? Or do we, instead, leave them running for water.
This is the second time this week that I felt compelled to use a Fred Rogers quote… but he’s got something great to say about this: “At the center of the Universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.”
Life is for service.
How, this week, can our light and our unique flavor serve others?