We all have expectations when that dinner bell rings. Ask a room full of parents if they would like daily dinnertime to be more significant and many hands will go up. Most parents would like for their family mealtime to be more than it is.

With four young boys at the table, Stan and I were not strangers to the challenges of mealtime. Like most families, we experienced some success with delightful, relaxed meals and meaningful conversation. Other times, we scrambled to just get food on the table and everyone fed before heading off to the next item on our list. At times, conversations were scattered and unfocused. Maybe I was tired. Maybe the boys were cranky. Occasionally, we had an opportunity to look back and reflect. Why was what we just experienced so unsatisfying?

Often dinner was one of the few times when everyone was in the same place at once. We knew it was important. In our dissatisfaction and sometimes guilt we asked ourselves, “What is this more that we long for and how can we get there?”

As an educator, I recall a strategy that effectively brought focus in the classroom–every time. Whenever I said to my students, “Let me tell you a story,” they  miraculously became attentive. All eyes, all ears. Maybe in our homes, having more consistent success at mealtime is as simple as coming to the table prepared with the power of a story… our stories, our children’s stories, stories of others we know and even those we do not know.

This simple power of story was recently affirmed at our dinner table. Stan shared something he came across while reading about his family in the History of Grant County Families (1980.) One particular entry intrigued him. It chronicled the married life of a young couple, George and Tillie Glass who, like many others, worked to establish a homestead on newly opened land.

In 1899, after “proving” his claim, George Duel Glass built a two-room frame house on his recently acquired land. He traveled to Wichita, Kansas to marry his chosen, Matilda Catherine Walker, a music teacher at the Bethel School in Hutchinson.

George and Tillie were married on Christmas Eve, 1899, and they set out by wagon for their new life on the Oklahoma prairie.

“Arriving at the homestead, George carried a rocker inside the small, claim house for Tillie to sit on while he unhitched and fed the team. Upon his return, he found her sobbing over the stark, new home. However, the next morning, she was busy unpacking, arranging furniture, hanging curtains, and … singing. Singing was Tillie’s way of expressing her Christian faith and joy of life. When she passed away at the homestead on November 3, 1939, a neighbor said, ‘We’ve lost our songbird.’”

George and Tillie in front of their expanded home for their growing family.

Though it only took about two minutes for Stan to share this story, Tillie’s life inspired me. Initially disappointed and discouraged, Tillie chose joy over sadness. This simple story and profound message provided significant, reflective conversation at the dinner table. We are all intrigued by stories about where people came from, how God worked in their lives as they overcame and even triumphed. What can we learn about their journey? What can we learn about ourselves?

When that dinner bell rings, our intentional, focused preparation will result in satisfied parents and happier children. Parents, come to the dinner table with a story and encourage your children to do the same!

As God works in the lives of His children, He creates stories for us to share.

See related post: The Farmhouse Journal: Knowing Your Story