Eating is a major part of life. This is not about the food itself. It does not matter if it is a simple meal from a fast food place or dining in fine restaurants. It does not matter if one has made sandwiches or had a massive cookout. The question is what happens at the meal. When we eat, we have one of our most base needs met. But when we have a meal with others so much more happens.
When we break bread together, we engage those around us. We talk, we tell stories, we tell jokes, we enjoy one another’s company. This is why so many holidays involve a meal. Here in the United States Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter have distinct traditional meals associated with them. The many other holidays on the calendar have their food traditions as well – primarily cookouts such as on the 4th of July (among many others). In the history and calendar of the Church, many of the holidays are referred to as “Feast Days.”
The thing about each of these meals is that we almost exclusively eat with those we know. We eat with those who are like ourselves. We eat with those who share our same backgrounds and values. We will enjoy our time at the meal, but it is likely that we will not hear a new or different idea. This is OK. What might be better – what might make us all better – is if we had more meals with those who are not like us.
On the Camino de Santiago people from all over the world come to walk an ancient pilgrimage route. Everyone is looking for something. Sometimes it is personal and sometimes it is spiritual, but there is something a person wants to find or experience or connect to. In the process, all of these people end up interacting along the way. On particularly special days that is over meals – especially if it is a big meal like the mountain top meal pictured here.
People from all nations who are speaking all languages who figure out how to communicate, how to share stories, how to share jokes, how to enjoy one another’s company. It is in moments like this where differences are a matter of interest rather than division. If you go back and take another look at the hierarchy of needs, you may find that there are many higher needs met when this happens. Those needs which when met make us better people. Needs like love and belonging, esteem, and learning about yourself while you learn about others. In all that is going on in the world, I suggest that we ought to all be spending more time breaking bread together – breaking bread with strangers. Who knows – when you break bread with someone that you do not know – you just might even see God or one of His messengers.