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Soul Searching

Tom Saretsky


Food for all, from around the kitchen table


Have you ever stopped to consider the importance of your kitchen table? Next to the couch, or your bed, it’s the foundational piece of furniture in your home. It’s of prime importance because it serves to nourish you physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The kitchen table is an altar of sacrifice. It’s the altar on which you spill open your lives to friends and family. It’s where novels are written and poems are composed. It’s a springboard for creativity. It’s a comforting support when parents sit and wait at night for their children to come home safely. It holds the banquet feasts of Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and countless other celebrations. It’s also a gathering spot to share grief, heartache and loss.

If the table could talk, how many stories could it share? The kitchen table feeds, comforts, consoles, heals, builds, welcomes, and provides. No wonder it featured prominently in Jesus’ ministry. His ministry was characterized by open-table fellowship where all were welcomed, all were accepted, and all were fed.    

The kitchen table was prominent in my life when I was growing up. It was around the kitchen table where we enjoyed countless animated discussions about theology, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, politics, history, sports and all things open-ended. It was never a time to be closed — differing opinions and insights were always welcomed. Our lives were broken open and shared, while we consumed copious amounts of coffee or the beverages of Cana!

My own attitudes and wisdoms were formed during these discussions, and from my observations of great thinkers, writers and theologians who visited to engage in rich conversation with my parents. There is something about the kitchen table that can take away the filters of political correctness, and which allow you the opportunity to express yourself without edit. Our kitchen table was like that. It was open. It was a sacred space that allowed for the spirit of expression, insight, opinion, and wisdom to soar.

But have you ever been in a conversation or a discussion that was held “under the kitchen table?” It’s a cramped place to be. There is no room and no space that allows for difference of opinion, dissenting viewpoints or even for original thought. Sometimes it’s a discussion that is controlled by one person — the person who “knows” everything; the person who tells you, not talks to you or discusses with you.

The ceiling for the expansion of one’s thought is not very high above one’s head, and you run the risk of banging your head whenever you feel the need to stand up for your convictions that might run contrary to others around you. These are the discussions that are most difficult to endure. The pressure to conform to the majority of the thinking or the teaching or opinion does not lend itself well to actually learning anything, because no one learns anything if everyone agrees, and no one learns if they’re simply told.

As I was growing up, we sought to live for the questions and not the answers. We were encouraged to think critically, to challenge when necessary, and to never surrender our brains to institutional thinking. My parents were teachers and they taught us well from around the kitchen table.

In my own home, our kitchen table is the place where we primarily learn about one another. At suppertime we share the adventures of our day; and now that my son, Nathan, is in high school, we chirp at one another over which high school has superior athletics and academics. My wife, Norma, and I are both teachers, so our kitchen table also serves as a teaching desk. We’ve helped our kids with their projects, assisted them with their homework, taught new concepts and helped them to figure out solutions to problems with friends.
We hope that the importance of visiting and sharing our lives around the kitchen table will sow the seeds of tradition that will extend to our kids once they have families of their own.

The kitchen table — an altar of sacrifice, a place of learning, of discovering, of nourishing. May you never take your kitchen table for granted. By following the example of Jesus, let your table become a place of reverence, a refuge, a sanctuary, where all are welcomed, all are accepted and all are fed.

Saretsky is a teacher and chaplain at Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon. He and his wife, Norma, have two children, Nathan and Jenna.