Just a Thought | The Priceless Value of a Dining Room Table

'May we raise a generation worthy of us passing our torch to' 

By Rick Kraft

Mother Teresa said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

The most important piece of furniture in a family’s home is the dining room table… period.  My dining room table needs to be replaced. It is over 35 years old, but it has served its purpose. More on this later…

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The breakdown of the American family is directly tied to our failure to spend time together as a family at our dining room table. There is so much to do in this world today, why spend time talking together on a regular basis during and after a family meal?

Retreating to a computer or a television show is easier than sharing experiences or addressing and working through issues together at the dining room table. Or worse yet, why not have everyone eat on their own as they are able? Why even assemble together on a daily basis? Hopefully you are beginning to understand my premise.

Our world of tomorrow is being shaped today. Family choices we make today will impact the generations that follow. Not a single one of us should take this truth for granted. Our children are future husbands and wives, future fathers and mothers.

Where our world wakes up three decades from now is being determined by what is happening right now. It is being determined by what we are doing with our youth today.  Children are a third of our population and all of our future.

There is no magical dust that a person or a nation can sprinkle on a mass of young people that will cause them to make good decisions for the rest of their lives. There is no pill that can be swallowed by every person on their eighteenth birthday that will program each one properly for the rest of his or her lives.

Programing a child is a gradual process. A substantial part of the process should happen over their years at our dining room table.

We raise our youth one at a time, each child is unique in his or her own way.The family unit is responsible for raising the children within it. A child is born and he has within him a mixture of DNA that this world has never seen before. He is a blank slate waiting to be written on. Charles Swindoll said it well when he shared “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”

Vladimir Lenin once said “Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world.” Regardless of how you or I feel about the speaker, he is right. What we do with our youth is serious business. The future of our nation rests on the future of our youth.

Numbers vary on quality time that parents spend with children. One study showed that working parents spend only 19 minutes of quality time caring for their children a day. This number is higher than some studies. Recognize that if you aren’t raising your children, someone else is.

Clearly a child is more likely to become a contributing productive member of our society if he or she comes from a loving and nurturing home.

We as adults often unjustly criticize our youth. We complain because of how they handle the world they are growing up in and we want to blame the problems they have on them.  What we fail to recognize is that children come into this world pre-wired the same way they always have been. It is us who have created this world they are growing up in. We need to assume responsibility for what is occurring with our youth, not blame it on them.

I would hope that each of us desire to leave this world a better place to live than the world we were born into. It all begins at the dining room table.

Don’t put a television in a child’s bedroom. According to studies reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, children with a television in their bedroom spend more time watching TV, report less physical activity, have less healthy dietary habits, are more likely to be overweight, have worse school performance, and eat fewer family meals.

Some would tell you not to put a computer in a child’s bedroom for the same reasons.  Who knows what influences come through that screen. Anything a child can call up on a computer screen is being invited into your home.

Regardless, anything that separates family members from spending time together reduces the opportunity we have as parents to positively influence the next generation. Anything that brings the family together provides hope for the future.

Back to my dining room table. After 35 years of use and with our children having left home, our old dining room table has its best days behind it. But over the years it has served its purpose. And it remains an important piece of furniture when our children return home to visit. Still, the more time we spend at the dining room table, the more in tune we are even with our adult children.

My challenge to you today is to make the most of your dining room table. Wear it out!  Spend as much time there as you can. Every hour you spend together at your dining room table provides better hope for the future of our world.

Every child is a story yet to be told. Tomorrow is being determined today. John Whitehead said, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” Paulo Coelho in his book, “The Alchemist,” wrote “No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”

Our responsibility is to give our children roots and wings. The best hope we have to give them good roots is to spend time with them at our dining room table…it will determine what happens when they flap their wings.

May we raise a generation worthy of us passing our torch to.

Just a thought…

Rick Kraft, a South Pasadena High School graduate, is a syndicated columnist, a motivational speaker, a published author, and an attorney.  To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org.