One of the most enviable things I have observed on my adventures to some of the hardest places on the planet is how the absence of technology brings people together.
Having visited so many places where people live without electricity or WiFi or smart phones, I have noticed a consistent pattern — people actually have conversations with one another.
The most meaningful conversations tend to happen in the evenings, the time of day when simple folk are no longer distracted by the demands of their subsistence lifestyle. Without the distraction of television and other technology, families and friends spend their evenings chatting around campfires or under the light of the stars.
I read about one anthropologist who spent several weeks with a remote tribe. She chronicled their conversations during the day and then at night around the campfire. She concluded that it was the evening campfire conversations that were the most important because that’s when the people sang songs and shared the stories that had shaped their culture and influenced the next generation to keep their culture alive.
Technology has unquestionably given us much, including the opportunity to remain in constant contact with loved ones and friends. However, many of us have allowed technology to rob us of something far greater than what it has bestowed — looking into the eyes of the person seated next to us and having a meaningful conversation. We have allowed technology to shift our focus from others to the devices in our hands.
In the absence of campfires, families today have the next best thing in their homes — the family dinner table. This is the best place in our homes to make a lasting impact on the next generation. Food has the power to bring people together. However, eating meals together around the dinner table requires that we be as intentional as if we were building an actual campfire.
We must lead our families to meet at the dinner table and then we must have intentional conversations.
Intentional family conversations at the dinner table are not as hard as they might seem. Regardless of the ages of those seated around the table, each day provides enough conversation fodder to get things started, including important news events. Our conversations can help transmit our values to our kids and help them to process answers about tough topics or current events.
Make it a point to make your family’s dinner table a meaningful meeting place. Set some rules about the use of technology while seated at the table. Surely we can all spend a few minutes without the distraction of our smart phones. And, for those occasions when you will be out of the house, take advantage of opportunities to have conversations with your family in the car, in a restaurant, or wherever you find yourself.
Don’t leave it to others to shape the values and worldview of your family members. If you are a parent, take ownership of your responsibility to be the primary faith trainer of your kids. Gather your family around a campfire or your dinner table and enjoy real face time, tell stories, laugh together, and pray for one another. The benefits of these moments together will last a lifetime.