I grew up with the proverbial “Sunday dinners” – three generations gathered each week, through thick and thin, good times and bad, sun, rain, snow, sleet – enjoying each other’s company as we prepared and savored a delicious meal. All – and I mean all – were welcome at the one very-long table.
That was a generation ago when Sunday was “a day of rest.” There were no stores open for shopping. There were no organized sports activities, no Scouts or cultural meetings. It was a day of rest, family, friends and, for some, for attending religious services.
Today, culturally, in many ways Sunday is just another day – a day to do errands, go to the children’s athletic events and other activities. Some still attend religious services.
While my family no longer gathers every Sunday for dinner, we do gather once a month for a meal and to celebrate all of the birthdays in that month. My parents now count 23 members in their family – including 12 grandchildren who range in age from two to 19. As adults, we have all made the choice to stay local with our families, within 20 minutes of my parents.
Yesterday was one of those fabulous birthday events. But, for the first time, my son, one of the birthday boys, was not there; he was away at college. Many of us sensed his absence and I had more than a tinge of sadness. As we gathered around the birthday cake, my sister quickly FaceTimed him – and he was available! So we sang Happy Birthday not only to my little niece but to my son – and then my brother grabbed the phone, held it up to the candles, told my son to make a wish and blow with his cousin! The smile on his face – and ours – was priceless! As we cut the cake, different people took turns talking with my son. The cousins in early elementary school wanted to know what a dorm looked like – and my son was able to walk around and show them. What a gift – for each of us in a different way!
When I lead professional trainings, I often talk about the myriad of subtle societal changes that have led to generational gaps and a need for intentional intergenerational efforts. I think that activities on Sundays are one of those changes that have quietly usurped time we used to spend with grandparents and other elders in our circle of love.
But, each of us can seek to create intergenerational opportunities with the people in our lives and in our community. We can choose to use technology as a tool to bring us together, to increase our understanding and to share our life’s moments. In doing so, we are bridging the generations, touching lives and hearts, helping to ensure continuity and respect – a few lives at a time.