Editor’s Note: DC Service Corps member, Nayeli Garcia reflects on how the simple act of sitting down at the dinner table has shaped her family’s relationships.

This Advent season is a time for us to celebrate the coming of Jesus, but it is also a time to celebrate, with family, all of the good we’ve experienced. Coming from a family of six, it has been difficult to come together as a family to enjoy each other’s company. We are all grown up, we have different schedules, and are living our own lives. But growing up in a family of six has its perks. My dad has been a great role model my whole life, and even though he does not see himself the way I see him, he really has done so much within our family that goes unseen.

One way my dad has been able to show his unconditional love to us is by simply having everyone sit around the dinner table during all meals. As silly as it sounds, it has been a big part in my life. When my sisters and I were young, we would come home from school, and as my mom finished up dinner, we would help her set the table, change out of our uniforms, and wait until my dad came home to eat dinner. As a young kid, I can recall that dinner was the assigned time for us to eat, and if we didn’t eat during that time then we would not eat for the rest of the day. Once we reached middle school and high school, my parents’ work schedule changed, and it was hard for us to eat as a family. However, my dad still stressed the importance of us coming together around the table, so our family dinners were strictly enforced on the weekends.

But the older we got, the more intentional our family dinners became, and my dad insisted on having a serious and intentional conversation during dinnertime. Our conversation would vary from how our day was at school to more serious topics/events that were going on at the moment. I personally did not enjoy them since each one of us is different in our own way. It was difficult to have these kinds of conversations. All I wanted to do was just have small talk, eat my dinner, and continue on with the rest of my day. But, the more my dad pushed for us to speak up, the more I realized the importance of these conversations.

Looking back, these family conversations were a way for us to hear each other, to agree or disagree with each other, and, most importantly, to understand each other. Not only did it help the family as a whole, it was a way (for myself at least) to feel comfortable with my parents, speak to them about important things, and have intentional conversations with them. These family dinners also showed me that, no matter how different we are and how much we get on each other’s nerves, we can come together to support one another through the good and bad times–and to simply hear each other. Most importantly, our family conversations showed us the one thing we needed from one another: love.

My dad keeps inspiring our family everyday with everything that he has experienced in his life. By simply insisting on having family dinner at our small dinner table, he showed us his love. Looking back to the poem written by Madeleine L’Engle (“This is the irrational season when love blooms bright and wild.”), I realized that, while my dad’s insistence seemed irrational, it made the Garcia Family who it is today.  

Now, I can’t wait to go back home, not only to eat my mom’s cooking, but to come together as a family and show each other our love by simply being present with one another and sharing what is going on in our lives.

Reflection Question: What is one thing you do as a family to show your love to each other?