Family Lessons: Everyone Needs A Soft Place to Land

One of my fondest memories growing up is eating supper at the dinner table. It seemed to be the place where minds were opened and hearts were relieved. Momma often had to remind us that we couldn’t bring books to the table as we all loved to read. Her expectation was that we talk and connect with each other, and reading a book at the table wouldn’t align with that. We blessed our food, with the homemade prayer Momma made up just for us:

“Thank you Lord for happy hearts and rainy and sunny weather. Thank you Lord for this our food and now we are together. Amen.”

Together-that was the key word. As we grew up, the conversations at Momma’s dinner table took on a different spin. The challenges of friendships, college, and becoming an adult made their way to the table. With Momma’s love and encouragement we worked through them all. That table has been key in a lot of ways throughout my life. It’s where homework was done when I was young, but it’s also where I spent many weekends reading articles and taking notes for the literature review of my dissertation. It’s where peanut butter and banana sandwiches were eaten after church on Sunday when we were children, and also where we’ve discussed everything from politics to religion as adults.

Momma’s table is a safe space. It’s where you can be sure you’ll be loved and listened to, no matter what it is. No matter what is happening in my life, how challenging life can be, or how crazy the world feels, I know a “sitting spell” at Momma’s table can make everything alright. Problems can be solved, hurt feelings can be soothed, joy can be shared, and happiness can be felt.

As a professional, I’ve always tried to make my work space a safe space for others too. In my office and in my classroom, all folks have always been welcomed. From the moment I started teaching, I always had a lunch bunch-a group of kids, some that I taught, and others who I did not, who elected to eat their lunch in my classroom. As a principal, I also had students who sometimes asked to eat lunch with me, and the answer of course, was always yes. It signified for me a need to connect and I happily obliged.

Thanks to my Momma, I understand what it means to have a place to work through life’s complex problems, to talk through what needs to be done, and how to get through it. I’ve always wanted any space I occupied to be that kind of place for others. Momma’s dining room table has always been my soft place to land, and because of that I’ve tried to make my workspace the same for others who might need that. A filled candy dish on the corner of my desk has been a staple in every space I’ve occupied as a professional. A little chocolate can fix a bad day, soothe a crazy one, and share a space with a smile when there’s something great on the horizon.

As I grow older, and hopefully wiser, I am eternally grateful that Momma didn’t let us read books at the table when it was time for dinner. Because of that, I see the opportunity to share a meal as a chance to build and strengthen connection, and I hope I can practice curiosity and care with others the way Momma did with us. If I can can come close to Momma’s example and make others feel the way she’s always made me feel when I sit and talk with her at that table, I will have made something special of my life.

I imagine if we all practiced being together-being present, listening to one another, sharing our joys and troubles in equal measure, our lives would be fuller, our hearts would be made stronger, and our connections more authentic because then everyone might have a soft place to land.

Y’all be easy,

Latoya

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