Nuestra Casa es Su Casa
Nuestra casa es su casa – our home is your home. Byron and Rosario spoke this phrase to us when we arrived at their house in Xela. If we heard it from one, then the other echoed. We showed up their door, excited to see the family. We didn’t interrupt or disturb any plans (so we were told). Nothing else mattered because we were there, and we were greeted with smiles, hugs, and a few laughs.
For nearly a year, we lived in the apartment adjacent to their home. And now? Now, we were back in the compound as we called it. A few less kids, but just as much excitement and love as we could remember. Without hesitation, we were welcomed into Byron’s home and led to a bedroom where the children had placed a sign on the wall that read ‘Bienvenidos J & J’ (Welcome, Jessica and Johnathon).
After all that we had been through the previous few days – the ups and downs – there were feelings of relief to be in a place surrounded in love, by people who cared, and in a place that we truly felt was our own. Not only were we given a place to stay, but trusted enough to be given a key to come and go as we pleased. Because, once again, we were with people whom considered us family, and their house was our house.
Meal Time is Family Time
There is a uniqueness about sharing a meal with your family. For centuries, the dinner table has been a universal gathering place for parents to sit down with their children and share time with one another over a meal. While joining together for breakfast or lunch can be a wonderful experience, work, school, and other requirements seem to restrict families to only sharing dinner together. Even then, American culture can make this seem like an impossible task from time to time.
Amidst so many obligations, it might be difficult for you to remember the last time when your entire family sat down at the dinner table, shared a meal, and engaged in meaningful conversation. Have you done this lately? If so, did you think to invite your extended family – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.? How about your neighbors? Did you stop to think that there might be someone else besides those in your house that might be willing to join?
In the list of previous questions, you might have answered yes to the first question. If so, how about the three that followed?
In all the time that I’ve ever spent in Guatemala, meal time was family time. And dinner, well, it’s expected that you will be there. And, what if you invite a friend or neighbor? Even better, they’re always welcome, and I’m sure there will be plenty of food to go around.
Why is this Important, and What Does it Mean for You?
Meal sharing in Guatemala, as well as a large number of other countries, is a concept that is valued. More than nourishing your body, it is a time to nourish your soul.
It is an act of love.
Just as Byron and Rosario welcomed us into their home, they invited us to take a seat at their dinner table. Who else joined for our New Year’s Eve dinner? The American couple who lived in the apartment where I once lived. Anyone else? Our friend Ricardo from Nebaj, who we had invited to spend some time with us in Xela.
When dinner time arrived, Byron and family couldn’t be found. So, what did we do? We used their kitchen and cooking utensils to prepare a meal for them. And when they arrived, this mezcla (mixture) of people sat together and shared together our final meal of 2014.
Void of the television and no one texting on their cell phones. We were all present – listening, engaging, and sharing. Often times, the conversation touching on areas of life that I have never discussed with my blood family. Here lies the value and importance in what it truly means to share a meal together.
And this experience was important not just to me, but to all whom were sitting at the table. And the question becomes, how do you begin to place emphasis on the importance of meal time in your own home?
Begin with these three steps:
- Be Deliberate – Plan your week in advance and find at least one night every week where you will sit down with your family over dinner. Sure everyone is busy and has a jam-packed schedule. But that’s just an excuse. When’s the last time you made an excuse to not spend time with people you love?
- Remove All Distractions – I was recently at a restaurant with a few friends for dinner. At the table behind us sat two parents and their two children. I wish I could write that they were enjoying quality time with one another. Unfortunately, both children were playing a game on their iPad’s and the parents on their cell phones. Engaged? Not hardly. Eliminate any item, device, or noise that may cause distraction. When you can do this, you are no longer listening with your ears and speaking with your mouth; you are doing both with your heart.
- Keep the Conversation Positive – Throughout the dinner with Byron and his family, there was not a single word of negativity. There is nothing worse than sitting at a table of ten people and not a single person saying a word out of fear because someone else might get their feelings hurt. Speak with candidness and honesty, but never forget to share your thoughts with love.
As you look at the week ahead I challenge all of your to make this a goal in the next week. Sit down with your family and share a meal together. You just might be surprised at the things you will learn and the ideas you will share. You never know, you just might find out how much you really like the person in the chair across from you!