When our family hosted guests for Sunday dinner, my favorite times happened when we stayed at the table for hours after we ate, and it wasn’t because of the food. If we moved from the table to sit in the living room or go outside on the grass, the conversation always took a hit. We could never pick up talking where we left off. Even if the chairs were harder and we had to sit straighter, I didn’t mind staying for hours to talk and laugh and sometimes sing.
I don’t know what the psychological term is for this phenomena of how the conversation changes when the location changes but it seems like a thing and it should have a name.
These days, I wish the conversations on-line would move to the dining room.
I keep a carefully curated social media feed because I don’t have time/energy/space for shouting matches. Even so, many voices have disappointed me, scared me, kept me from engaging because it seems everyone is winging caustic words, and if I say anything I’ll be shot down because it was somehow the wrong words or ignorant ideas and don’t I know better? At the very least, don’t I know that THIS ISSUE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD?
I’m grateful for a few gentle, rational voices, but they are very, very few, and to all the others I just want to say “Can we move the conversation to the dining room?”
In the real world, neighbors talk to each other over porch railings, across the street, shout HEY to a pal. It’s ok to raise a voice there but real connection and change doesn’t happen on the street. When the conversation moves inside, however, it changes. Especially when there’s ice cream involved.
We speak differently depending what room we’re in. It’s about boundaries, respect, self-awareness, intimacy. Words, tone of voice, volume all change depending on whether we’re on the street, porch, dining room, living room, or bedroom.
The shrill comments and shouted judgement online have no nuance, no shared history, no awareness of the other. (I exaggerate here to make a point.) The shouting is happening on the streets of the cyber world but we should move the discussion to the kitchen table. What if no one shouted at each other? What if they sat down, talked quietly over Coke and chicken curry, and asked clarifying questions at a civil volume level?
I listened to a lunch conversation where men gave strong, insightful comments about racism and current buzzwords and their connotations. Had the men put their comments on Facebook, they would have been shot down and villainized in 30 seconds. But I trusted their character, I heard the inflection in their voices, I knew some of their back story, and I agreed with what they said.
Those men’s wise, solid voices don’t have a chance on the noisy street or the shouting match on the porch. They matter, and they make a difference, but they’re not noisy and the crowds don’t hear them.
Words spoken at the table are the words the world is starving for, but who facilitates those conversations? Kitchen table conversations are where real change takes place, not comments fired at each other on Facebook. Where are the voices who seek to understand and offer compassion instead of opinions? Where will the shaming stop? It might stop when we eat together.
They’ll know we’re Christians by our love, not by our allegiance to the right or left or our adamant statements.
Let’s move the discussion to the kitchen table. I make a good chicken curry. Come on over!