Sometimes there are moments in life where you know there must be a higher power guiding you along your path. Saturday night, I had an experience to remind me of just that.
After I made my dinner, a somewhat uninspired bean burrito and salad, I picked up the remote and turned on the TV for the third time since I began living here in August. I was searching for the Oregon vs. Stanford football game, but happened to stumble upon a program where a man was talking about Tuscany. The mention of anything Italian was enough for me to put down the remote and watch whatever he was talking about.
The screen began to fill with images of wine, crumbly almond cookies dusted in powdered sugar and slices of creamy white lardo – aged pork fat, which everyone seemed to agree was decisively delicious. As I swallowed the last bite of my faux Mexican dinner, the host joined in with a Tuscan family as they sat down to feast in celebration of the harvest (what a contrast to my current meal!). He went into a beautiful description of the Italian family table – that while there are individual place settings, glasses and chairs, there is only one table – the central object that links these people together. For Italians, he stressed, sitting down to eat a meal at the family table is not an uncommon sight – in fact, it is a key value in Italian society. Eating a meal together is a very communal experience, one which involves interaction among generations as they pass down the traditions from their family’s past. Eating together is a time when children learn how to interact with adults, a time where they not only learn etiquette, but also the importance of building strong and healthy relationships.
I sat there on the edge of my seat as if I was going to jump into the television set and sit down to partake in this remarkable family gathering. How wonderful to know that there are communities that value something I consider to be one of the highlights of the human experience! As I prepare to travel to Florence for my study abroad experience, I can’t help but think that there is a reason why I have such a strong pull to go to Italy. For me, this experience will be more than just an opportunity to live in a beautiful city filled with so much wonderful history – it will be my chance to live in a place where family, and sharing in communion at the family table, is a core principal in their daily lives. Seeing that image modeled on the TV screen on Saturday night was just another way of God telling me, “Taylor, I’m sending you to the right place – a place where you can heal, where you can see and experience a beautiful meaning of family.”
January, when I arrive, I’ll be ready with my bags packed, stomach hungry and heart waiting to be filled with the love of the Italian family.