Many single people eat alone most of the time, maybe with the radio playing in the background; familiar voices and music softens the isolation. As someone who is single, and lives alone I can speak both to the value and pain of sitting without company at the table, meal after meal, day after day until it becomes so normal that you forget that food is best shared!
Holidays can interrupt that pattern of behaviour and that has certainly been my experience for the past two weeks. Breakfast is so much more relaxed when you aren’t looking at the clock, watching your time and thinking about the first work commitment of the day. It also tastes so much better in the garden, still wearing pyjamas and unwashed. The simple joy of answering questions like ‘How did you sleep?” and “Do you dream?” is a blessing of being in company. Then planning the day, rather than the desk diary determining the agenda, is pure bliss. Those seven breakfasts, in company with a couple of friends, were my holiday highlight.
Week two was also very pleasant, but in a totally different way, 12 visitors arrived, 3 couples, 6 children. The drought of company caused by Covid brought the younger generation, with spouses and kids, home from Australia, USA and Scotland. It was summer of 2018/19 since we had last met and boy but those kids had changed. It was funny making introductions again, one who was 3 last visit, and is now 6 needed a couple of days to rediscover who all these ‘aunties and uncles’ are, when in fact we are the ‘great aunties and uncles!’ Meal times were a hoot, you quickly discover that different words are used in the various countries for similar foods, condiments and cutlery. Some eat happily with food piled on the plate, another likes everything separated. Phones and tablets were of course banned from the table, as was shouting, but every meal mattered. The sheer energy, the unbridled joy and the occasional quiet or withdrawn child, was very joyful.
Finally, I return to my own house, and share breakfast with Fr John, and that too is just lovely.
I say all of this to remind myself, and all of us, that breaking bread together, sitting down in company, sharing the stories of life and planning for the day and time ahead is best done with others.
Our shared life in parish and church, day by day and Sunday after Sunday, needs these moments of sitting together, talking, listening, sharing. We are better together, please encourage your own people to return to the Eucharist, to the gathering of the community and the breaking of the Bread.