Life Saving Philosophy

How mental vigor and newfound clarity can change how we view the world and our place in it

Breaking Bread and Feeding Friendship

Sharing Food Fosters a Sense of Belonging

Breaking bread is at the heart of many spiritual traditions with good reason. Communion happens as hands break bread to share bodily and soulful sustenance. Simple yet grand pleasures await those who slow down, carve out the time, make travel and preparation efforts, and find each other again. As conversation heats up and laughter rings out in the warmth of camaraderie, we wonder why it took us so long to gather! We belong together.

Lately I've been rereading much of Jane Addams writing, putting her books down always inspired by her social work in Chicago at the turn of the twentieth century. A few days ago her emphasis on food as social adhesive came alive in my own backyard. A look first at Addams and then...the party!

Addams addressed the "curious isolation of many of the immigrants" flooding Chicago as the Industrial Revolution forever altered small town agricultural communities. She founded Hull-House, the first settlement community of its kind in this country, opening the doors to many thousands who jumped at the chance to "respond to opportunities for social life" (Twenty Years at Hull-House). Coffeehouse aromas lured over twenty nationalities into card games and a roll of the dice. The whir of kitchen activity never ceased, and while Addams was committed in theory to  "slow and thorough processes of cooking," children clamoring for mac ‘n cheese and elderly neighbors coming for tea quickened the pace.

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Today we have our own machine-made revolution, but technological communication is no substitute for the real thing. Assembling at my home, family members and lifelong as well as recently-met friends conspired to surprise my mother for a milestone birthday celebration. Platters exchanging, coolers opening and closing, balls tossing, (airborne grapes are spiraling towards the unsuspecting), corks popping, and dogs' tails wagging: a re-union....  Our bustling world works against taking time out for food and friendship only if we let it. Generation gaps disappeared in chats between two or among ten and child's play was a game for all. Alumni remembered college friends some 60 years ago. Phone cameras flashed, making 80 year old photos new again and giving life to those pictured.

What a jolt for the spirit, food scooped on buns, arms wrapped around waists, busyness and distance melting into belonging. We belong, together. Such a short sentence and such a big deal.... Breaking bread creates real birth days for us all.

Marietta McCarty is the author of Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy With Kids and How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas That Matter Most.


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