This past weekend our church celebrated All Saints’ Day. It gave me the opportunity to think about some of the people in my life who now enjoy the full glory of sainthood. For the first time in a long time I thought about my maternal grandfather.
He had a profound influence on my young life. As it usually is when one is young, I didn’t realize it until after he was gone. He died when I was in high school, and I even sang at his funeral. My grandmother selected the beloved hymn, Children of the Heavenly Father. Though my grandfather had lived an entire life here on earth, He was still a child. Of the Heavenly Father.
But while he was still living, my grandfather taught me some great lessons. He and my grandmother lived 50 miles north of us in the small town of Fond du Lac, so we didn’t often see them. When we did, it was usually for a holiday or some other special occasion.
My grandfather was a self-made man. He was a traveling salesman who sold sewing supplies. He faithfully read Time magazine. He loved listening to the Chicago Cubs on his transistor radio. He always wore a freshly pressed white dress shirt, and looked incredibly dapper in a hat. He once discovered that I didn’t have a winter dress coat, so he told me to go out and buy one…on him. It was the first one I ever owned.
But the greatest lesson I learned from my grandfather was the lost art of table conversation. My grandmother was a fabulous cook. We ate meals at the dining room table, always covered with a table cloth. We used the fine china. We ate breadsticks from a local bakery, the likes of which I have not tasted since.
Once dinner was over, even as children, we were expected to remain at the table. It was then that we “returned thanks” and spent significant time chatting and listening to my grandfather hold forth about politics, the economy, sports, and even religion. Topics like those, avoided at other dinner tables, were encouraged around my grandfather’s table.
It was during those cherished conversations that my young mind was shaped by one much wiser than I. I remember sitting enthralled…sometimes even interjecting my own thoughts and opinions. At times they were welcomed. Other times I had to be corrected. But it was always a joy as a child to participate in adult conversation around my grandfather’s dinner table.
In a world filled with screens, cell phones, and other distractions, maybe we’ve lost the art of good conversation. Maybe our children are missing out. Maybe we’re missing an opportunity to pass on the wisdom of our own years with the next generation.
How can we recover the lost art of conversation?