American culture has a fascination with quick fixes. I don’t think I need to go into detail about this. Just look around. Think about the next time you are sitting at a traffic light and you grow impatient waiting for the light. Or how about waiting in line at the grocery store. Americans don’t like a church service to go over one hour. Our political candidate “debates”, if you want to call them that, offer candidates 1-2 minutes to express their solution to any given problem facing the nation – as if fixing a large problem can be solved in a matter of a few sentences.
Quick fixes sound good on the surface, but they are like microwave dinners. Sure, they look good on the packaging. Sure, they smell good when you take them out of the microwave. But if you don’t scare it down in a matter of minutes, the meal is cold. And to be honest, it doesn’t taste nearly as good, and isn’t even close to as healthy if you took the time to make a proper meal. But hey, who has time for that right? Just don’t expect to be healthy then.
I don’t have the answers to our culture’s challenges that we face. I don’t know what policies we should be implementing. Based on my experience, I do know this much – there are not one-size-fits-all solutions for any problem out there. What works here probably won’t work in another part of the world, let alone in another part of the country. That’s because there is a unique set of people, with their own experiences, knowledge, level of trust, and more. It’s what makes us the context of an area. It’s what makes it unique. Sure, there are some overarching themes that can be taken from one place to another, but when it comes to implementing those themes, I’m willing to bet that they must be implemented in different ways for different cultures and contexts.
So, does that means we just throw our hands in the air like we just don’t care – no, of course not. What are we to do. Here’s a start – sit down with people and eat with them. Sit and eat and drink and talk. This is how community is created and sustained. Eating and drinking with others has this weird effect – it slows things down, it forces conversation, it equalizes people, it opens people up.
I think this works in a variety of situation – not just people you have a relationship with. Ever try eating with someone who is your enemy? Try it sometime. You might see someone different at the table across from you than you thought was there. You might be different too by the end of the conversation.
I’m willing to bet that when we eat with people – regardless of friend or foe – we’ll come away with new insights. We may find that the person across from us is a lot better than we thought. Then again, we might also come away realizing that they are worse. We aren’t living in la-la land here. We may come away with brand new ideas, ways of doing things. We also may come away having shared something incredible too. And these things could take on a whole new life of their own. Even if none of that happens, even if you head isn’t full of new ideas and options, even if your heart isn’t full of appreciation and love, your stomach will be. And that’s a start.