Just before I left for Mthatha, I sat down for dinner with both of my parents at our kitchen table that has the giant legs which make for excellent footrests and the worn spots on its center from years of dishes being placed upon its grain. That table has been my kitchen table for all twenty-three years of my life, and gathered around it were the two most important people to me. We sat and ate and talked like we had many times before when I was younger, and honestly there was no better way for me to spend my time before leaving. A meal shared together was one of our last acts as a family before my year in South Africa began.
In thinking back over these seven months, meals shared together stand out as a theme. Whether it be lasagna night at Jenny's on Wednesday, lunch on a hot Sunday afternoon in a one room church, gathered around a table with eleven of the most remarkable young men I've met at Sabelani Home, or a braai (Afrikaans term for a BBQ) with other volunteers as a storm rolls in, these times shared together stand out. Here I feel nourished both my the food we consume, but also by the conversations that unfold. Around these tables of various shapes and sizes, there is time to decompress, to laugh, to share, and to learn a new part of someone's story. These are moments of transparent time.
"A sacrament is when something holy happens. It is transparent time, time which you can see through to something deep inside time....Needless to say, church isn't the only place where the holy happens. Sacramental moments can occur at any moment, any place, and to anybody. Watching something get born. Making love. A high school graduation. Somebody coming to see you when you are sick. A meal with people you love. Looking into a stranger's eyes and finding out he's not a stranger. If we weren't blind as bats, we might see that life itself is sacramental."
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking