You know how it is with families. You have these little ways of doing things and because you don't know any different you think your little ways are normal. You may assume other people do things the same way. This is where you might be mistaken — some of our little ways seem downright peculiar to others.
But some of our little ways may have some value.
One of the little ways in my family of origin had to do with the dishes. We never had a dishwasher (actually, we had many, but each of them also had a name) and there were 10 children when everyone was home for supper, so we had to have a system. For a while, there were two teams. I was partnered with the two youngest girls. The middle sisters were their own team. And the boys were responsible for vacuuming the dining room after supper.
I have no complaints. It was as fair as a system could be. Eventually, we all grew up and moved away. But when we come together for family lunches and dinners, while the “teams” may not be intact, there are still always dishes. So we have a new rule, which is actually the same as the old rule: nobody has finished until everybody has finished. Until the table is cleared, the dishes washed, dried and put away, we’re just not done. We are there, in the work together. Until the work is done, we can’t, we don’t, head off in our various directions, or kick back and relax.
It has been hard for me to get in the spirit of Canada’s “150th” this year because the important work isn’t done. The issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is still not resolved. There are First Nations communities without clean and safe water. Some schools in First Nations continue to be underfunded. How can we have left the kitchen with this glaring injustice?
We all need to be on our feet, metaphorically, until the work of redressing this inequity is done, standing with others, standing with those who were here first. We need to be back in the kitchen, tea towels in hand, working until the absolutely fundamental principles of a just society are in place, for everyone.
Working with others in the kitchen builds relationships. We learn to talk with each other, what to say, and what not to say. We learn to listen to each other, to discern pain and hope. We learn to work with each other, develop respect for what each person’s strengths are, and learn how to help each other in a good way.
So when you leave the table, head into the kitchen. That’s where the real talk is anyway.