It is interesting how the whole idea of breaking bread together became a spiritual symbol in many religions. It makes sense really. In some ways, organized religions seem to encourage activities that build cohesiveness in the group of followers, and eating together is one of those activities that supports and encourages community.
Leaving aside religion, the importance of community cannot really be understated. It is important for the individual, the family, the village, the country and the world. Community is the glue that holds us together as a society. Given the escalation of horrific random mass shootings in recent times , it seems clear that in some situations, the glue is not holding very well. It is, however, significant to note that the mother of the admitted shooter in one such event had phoned authorities regarding her concern about her son’s assault weapon purchase. To me, that is a clear example of how community works. Of course, the glue needed to have been stronger so that the shooter would have been stopped. I remember reading how the grandmother of a wannabe mass shooter called the authorities on her grandson and he was stopped. That is at least part of what we need.
But we need the kind of community in our homes and neighborhoods and towns and cities that prevents these events and prevents or alleviates the anguish,despair, depression or rage that is behind some of this. Sitting down together, at a meal, with friends or family, and having a conversation on a regular basis is an opportunity to air concerns, fears, joys, anger, etc. Hearing other points of view can go a long way toward softening extreme views or feelings of rage and despair. Other measures need to be taken as well, but bolstering up our communities could be a part of the solution.
Sitting down together at a meal provides a common thread. Many cultures have long traditions surrounding both family meals and meals with guests. Every culture with which I am familiar has placed importance on the idea of eating together with other people, be it family or friends. The friends who join us are both honored to have been invited and honor us by gracing our table. There is something close to sacred about this bond of eating together with others. Even the simplest of meals is enhanced by sharing it with others.