There is something utterly magical about the combination of good food, loved ones, and a reason to celebrate. Coming together at a common table carves out a natural pause in daily life—the table connects us, ties us together for this moment in time, and gives us a place to open up to each other.When we think of celebrations, our first instinct is often to invite those closest to us to share in the occasion. Best friends and classmates are invited for birthday cake. Brothers and sisters in the faith are invited for the iftar meal to break the Ramadan fast. Family is invited for Thanksgiving dinner. And neighbors are welcomed for summer BBQs and pool parties. But celebrations are also a great time to welcome new faces to the table.
Newcomers–whether to our family, our community, or the country–bring fresh perspectives and new stories. They lend a richness to our own lived experience, providing food for thought, as well as new recipes for the table.
In a world more desperate than ever for deep connection, celebrations are a natural backdrop for relationship. And they must be a first step to healing all that’s tearing us apart.
If we want the world to change, we can’t sit back and wait for it to happen. It starts with overcoming division in our own families, our own communities. Our own change–created when we make time and space for meaningful connection–creates pockets of beauty in the world.
Here are 10 conversation starters to build connection:
[In bracketed italics you can find questions adapted for conversations with the children at your gatherings.]
1. What do you think you’re most known for in your social circles? What do you wish you were known for? [What do your friends all know about you? What do you wish they knew?]
2. Can you describe someone that you love, value, and respect? Do they know? Have you told them? [Who is someone you want to grow up to be like? Have you told them?]
3. What is your most memorable celebration? What was the occasion? What makes it still so tangible in your memory? [What was your favorite celebration? Why?]
4. Is there a particular food or meal that brings warm memories rushing back for you? What is it? Why is it so special? How is it prepared? [What food that makes you feel the most special? Why?]
5. What makes you feel seen and heard? [How do you know someone is really listening to you?]
6. If you were given just 15 minutes to prepare an impromptu lesson, what expertise or wisdom would you share? [What are you really good at? Can you teach me how to do it?]
7. How have you grown since this time last year? How do you hope to be different next year? [What is something new you learned? What are you learning now?]
8. In serving others, what comes most naturally to you? What do you struggle with? [When you help others, what are you really good at? What is hard to do?]
9. When you get into a disagreement, how do you maintain a bridge in the conversation? In the relationship? [When you get in a fight, how do you keep listening to the other person, instead of walking away?]
10. How could you create “celebration tables” in your life—opportunities to share meals, stories, and gratitude—throughout the year? [Who would you invite over to play and share stories? What’s stopping you?]