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The meal that changed my life

It was a regular Sunday lunch that would change me forever.

There was myself and my brothers, mum and dad and there was another guest at the table that day.

Being pastors, my parents always have an open home, so there’s often a stranger sitting at their table, receiving comfort and a meal.

There wasn’t anything special about the menu. I think it might have even been leftovers and we kept the conversation light, so as not to exclude our guest.

Halfway through the meal, I looked over to discover she was crying. We all paused.

She looked around the table at each of us and through her tears said: ‘in all my years as a parent, we never once sat around the table for a meal together… this is lovely… just lovely.’

It wasn’t until after she left that I asked mum about the significance of her statement. This woman had 2 sons, both were into drugs. One had perpetrated a murder/suicide.

Could it be that sitting around the table with us, she realised this simple act could have saved her sons?

“One of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in their teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners,” says Joseph Califano Jr., chairman and president of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA).

CASA reported on a national phone survey of 1,000 teens and 829 parents of teens. Eating dinner as a family helped kids in many ways. It helped them get better grades, and kept them away from cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and more. (source:

Here are the 10 Benefits of Family Dinners from the Columbia University study:
• Everyone eats healthier meals.
• Kids are less likely to become overweight or obese.
• Kids more likely to stay away from cigarettes.
• They’re less likely to drink alcohol.
• They won’t likely try marijuana.
• They’re less likely to use illicit drugs.
• Friends won’t likely abuse prescription drugs.
• School grades will be better.
• You and your kids will talk more.
• You’ll be more likely to hear about a serious problem.
• Kids will feel like you’re proud of them.
• There will be less stress and tension at home.

A couple of years ago, CNN also ran a story on the many and varied benefits of eating meals together. One of which is that fact that children are more likely to try new foods and eat their vegies if they eat with their parents.

It’s hectic, it’s messy, it’s often stressful but as I look across the table at my own two boys, sauce smeared through their hair, they smile back at me and I know it’s all worth it.

3 thoughts on “The meal that changed my life”

  1. Great article. Even if a family cannot manage it every night, the three or four nights you do sit together is worth it. I’ll be sharing this with my husband…who unfortunately never had his Father at the dinner table and now he is beginning to do the same.

    Melissa x

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