One of my twin sons Mick is working as a busser at a steakhouse restaurant in Waikiki this summer; he’s staying with my daughter’s family who lives in Hawaii. On his first day of what was going to be an 8-hour work day, he packed a PBJ dinner. When he came home I asked him how it went, and he said he didn’t need his packed dinner after all because the restaurant provided food for all the employees.

But not “just food. “We had a ‘Family Meal,’ a time of gathering, before we started work, where we share a meal,” he told me. “We have Family Meals every day at the same time, 3:30.”

I am so impressed with this practice. And, it’s not just that they feed my kid, which of course is pretty amazing. I remember talking to one of my twins’ friends who worked at a local upscale restaurant in the area and he’d stop by our house between shifts or after work famished. When I asked him what his favorite thing to eat is at the restaurant he told us he has never eaten there; he explained that they have to pay to eat. Sure, they get food at 20 percent off, but these kids have no money, and when they do, they don’t usually spend it on fancy meals. I believe restaurants should feed their employees. (Okay, a tangent 🙂

But beyond the importance of offering meals to their employees, what I found intriguing about my son’s employer is their emphasis on creating a time of gathering and connecting with one another over a shared meal at the same time each day. 

Bonding happens during meal times. Gathering together. Crafting community. Helping create a sense of belonging.

We all need to feel like we are a part of something, that we matter. 

There is something about that word: Family. It implies community, togetherness, gathering, belonging. 

I think of the Olive Garden slogan, “When you’re here, you’re family” that you hear when you watch an Olive Garden commercial. In the commercial, people are sitting around tables sharing meals and laughter, and you get a sense that people feel as if they have a place, as if they belong. So, the slogan they keep repeating about being family evokes a sense of community and togetherness.

The word family in and of itself makes you think of acceptance and “being known.” George Fox University, where my twins go to school and where my older son and daughter-in-law attended, uses that slogan, “Be Known.” for its marketing. It gives you a sense that students are more than just numbers but rather that they are part of a community, part of something bigger, part of a group. No matter what. You matter. You are valued.

We all need that. We all long for that. To know that you matter. You hear of people who have no family in town and they feel like there is a hole in their heart, and when they see you with family, they tell you you are blessed. And it is true. When you have family that accepts you and loves you no matter what, there is nothing better. It impacts us the rest of our lives.

That is something I try to do with people in my life, in our home and beyond at all times, and it is something vital  for us all.  I try to make my kids’ friends feel like they are important, that they are always welcome, that they have a place here in our home. No matter what time. Family can just be here real, be themselves. I just love it when my my kids’ friends say to “Hi Mom,” to me.

In the end, it’s about making people feel, know, intuit, that they matter, that you care. That they are significant. Important. Valued.

Because they are. You are. I am.

What makes you feel part of a your family? Is there a work family you feel connected to? A school family? A church family? 

How can we include others in our lives, in our family, in our various communities? 

Makes me think of the Olive Garden commercial, with its slogan: “When you’re here, you’re family.” Family means community, belonging, togetherness.

And, with family, there is always room for one more at the — in our case, German — table. 


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