Many of us already know the pleasure that can be found in spending time with friends or family over coffee or tea or a meal. It’s an aid to conversation and can provide a focal point to bring people together.
But, aside from the social benefits, it can also be good for your health. Cultures that put an emphasis on communal dining have demonstrated increased longevity and lower instances of heart disease and high cholesterol. Even casual dining can reduce stress levels, promote emotional wellbeing, and provide an incentive not to rush through meals and thus avoid the digestive issues it can bring.
More than pie in the sky
It’s not a new idea—the Early Church saw meeting together for food and fellowship as a key part of building community and it was an important factor in creating a sense of belonging in an often hostile environment.
The need for sustenance—both body and soul—is something everyone can relate to, so it’s no wonder there are so many food and drink metaphors used throughout the Bible to communicate spiritual truths. They weren’t just empty words, either, many of the miracles we read of were all about putting food and drink on the table. The ministry of Jesus himself began and ended with meals that fed the stomach and the spirit.
Feeding our fellowship
The power of coming together for a meal is not something we can only read about, a piece of history out of our reach and irrelevant to the real world. Anyone who has been part of a successful sporting club (or a not so successful one) will tell you that what happens on the field is only a minor part of what makes a club thrive—true club spirit is built at Saturday night BBQs or over after-training pizza.
It’s a universal principle that applies to any group from churches to billion dollar tech companies—if you want to create a sense of belonging and strive for something that is more than just the sum of its parts there is no better place to start than sitting down over drinks or a meal.
A recipe for a better life
Given all the benefits, there seems no reason to mix in moderation. But, the reality is that financial circumstances may limit our opportunities for social dining—a coffee here, a meal there, can soon add up—and overeating brings its own health issues. But, it is possible to enjoy the benefits of breaking bread together more often in both an affordable and a healthy way.
Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:
- Instead of going out somewhere, meet in someone’s home. You can ask each guest to bring along a tasty dish, and encourage everyone to bring some- thing healthy.
- Make exercise part of the routine. For example, make a cafe stop the reward at end of a longish walk with a friend. Not only is it good for you, it gives you more time to chat.
- When dining out, share a few dishes around the table, not only cutting cost but reducing portion size and perhaps leading you to try something new.
- Schedule in a weekly dinner or lunch for as many of the family as possible to attend. Be protective of the time and don’t let it to be the first thing that goes when things get busy.
- For things like an office morning tea bring a healthy fruit platter or another healthy snack.
- Next time you are having a BBQ invite the neighbours you don’t really know to come over. It’s a good way to get together with the people you normally just nod at over the fence.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html