My son is almost done with the sometimes arduous task of potty training. There are many methods to move from diapers to Spidey underoos and I’m not condoning any in particular. We have used rewards to encourage this process. (Stay with me folks) One reward has been a little cup of ice cream if he puts poop in the potty. Lately this means he is getting a lot of ice cream, 2-3 cups a day.
I recently noticed something that made me think (kids are always trying to teach us things). Whenever my son gets ice cream he gets really excited. After he gets about halfway through his little cup he usually comes to me or my wife with a spoonful of ice cream offering it to us. He will not take “No” for an answer. He is insistent that we should have some of his ice cream.
It’s as if he realizes something we have lost since those early years. Something as wonderful as ice cream is not really worth anything if it is not shared. Perhaps ice cream cannot fulfill its intended purpose unless it is shared. The joy that ice cream brings my son spills over to the people around him. We tend to hoard the things that make us happy. Those with eating disorders and addictions are in a sense all alone with their food and themselves. Many of us on a more subtle scale simply take comfort in certain foods, but we do this often out of loneliness.
Meals in which people gather around food, in which food is shared, don’t have the same problem that we do when we get alone with food. What my son has taught me is that the original intention of creation was that food would be a source of joy, community, relationships and life in our midst. Instead it is often exactly the opposite.
Simon Carey Holt, author of God Next Door, recently spoke at my church on “Eating Heaven.” During his talk he shared what several fourteen year-olds said about how they spent dinners with their family. The stories were disheartening and tragic. Burger King alone in front of a TV while mom does something else. We don’t talk because we’re all watching our favorite soap opera. I eat by myself because I’m picky and then I usually fight with my mom until we watch Simpsons.
Food is not just fuel, it’s relationships and life.