Lessons at the Dinner Table: Perception

After sitting to share a meal the other night with my son at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, I left with a fresh perspective on some of the important lessons to remember in life. They’re such good reminders, in fact, I’d be remiss not to share them.

At the most base level, your Perception Prerequisite Lesson would have to be:

Make a point to eat where you’re allowed to draw in crayon on the table! 
Were it not for this fact alone, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

You see, my son is taking an Art elective in school.
His choice was based on careful considerations, such as:

  • for some reason still foreign to us, he couldn’t get into a foreign language class this school year;
  • he felt like his middle school years carried enough drama with them without taking it as a formal course;
  • his school’s music teacher didn’t consider his drum or guitar to be sufficient for her class without the addition of his changing voice;
  • which, essentially, left Art as the lesser of the evils in his young, forming teenage mind. (Don’t knock the reasoning, as many U.S. voters went to the polls last week with this same attitude.)

The server brought some bread to our table and we began to break off pieces and dip it into olive oil.  Being the good mother that I am (my son might substitute the word ‘good’ for ‘nagging’ or ‘nosy’ sometimes, but his perception is often clouded by the added irritant of flourishing hormones), I asked him how his school experiences were going and what he’d learned that day. In response, he smiled, picked up the brown crayon our server had left behind after writing her name on our table, and stated,

“We’re learning about Perception in art class.”

He proceeded by taking this one, ugly brown crayon and placing its dull, worn-down tip on the paper-covered table to draw. (I’ll admit, I was skeptical. Even in the short-supply box of crayons, there’s only so much that I’ve ever been able to do with a brown crayon.)


This is what he brought to the dinner table as his offering:

Don’t miss the bread crumbs hanging out on our table.

They serve as an important reminder of:

Lesson Number 1.

As we sat there breaking bread together, it dawned on me the importance of this lesson, which is to Live in Community. Regardless of friction that may sometimes get created when we rub elbows with one another, how much potential do we miss in our own lives when we don’t take time to have our Perceptions broadened by others? Sitting there in front of me, after an arduous work day, was a warm and inviting mug, quickly and beautifully created with nothing more than a singular brown crayon and an enthusiastic response to an invitation to communicate that perception.

Lesson Number 2.

Going back to that singular, brown crayon, I’m reminded to be content in the concept to Live Simply. My son didn’t complain that he didn’t have the right resources to share his new perceptual knowledge with me. He didn’t bemoan that sometimes brown was the color of ‘yuk’, that it couldn’t measure up to the other rainbow-colored desires in this world. He didn’t make excuses that he didn’t have charcoals or tissue paper for smudging. He joyfully ‘made do’ with the resource he was given. How much more often I need to adopt this Perception.

Lesson Number 3.

Our server brought us a carafe of water for refills, as we waited for our main course.  My son decided we needed some musical entertainment, so we grabbed our wine glasses (as they weren’t otherwise being used) and added some water. We held the stems tightly with one hand while dipping our other fingers in and sliding them over the glass rims. We giggled in one another’s company as we orchestrated a musical symphony (by our Perception!) with the notes and rhythms we created together. What a beautiful reminder of how we’re called to Live in Harmony.

Lesson Number 4.

I glanced at that little cup on the table as we were preparing to leave. I understood that gift to me had been temporal; its time was fleeting. I wondered if our server would get a second of enjoyment from it when she cleared our table, as I’d watched her do time and time again that evening with other, less decorated ones surrounding us. I thought of how I’d conversed with her earlier and how she’d shared her concerns of being a single mom. I thought of how tough single motherhood is on so many levels. Though my work day had been long, it was ended. While I had the privilege of supping with my own child, hers did not have her presence for dinner that same evening. I leaned over and added an additional amount to our tip that brought it well over the expected percentage. (Why not, I thought? We’d come with a coupon plus she’d brought us another – and had allowed us to use them both together! What a generous surprise that had been.) As my son had shared his little cup with me at that table, I had received a strong Perception reminder – my cup runs over in so many ways in which I’ve been blessed in my life. When we share our gifts openly and freely with others, we encompass this final lesson – to Live Generously.

Filling our cups to overflowing with these four Perceptions can improve overall life satisfaction.
Go ahead.
Test me on it!
I’ll guarantee it!


My son just finished reading this post a few moments ago and liked it so well, he made the following suggestions:

First, he wanted me to give it a category of its own, entitled after the post itself – “Lessons at the Dinner Table” – because he thought there were a lot of good lessons that came (or should come) from encouraging family interaction and conversation (despite what the evil teen hormonal voices sometimes try to say).

Secondly, we agreed that others should have the opportunity to contribute, since you all probably have some great words of wisdom that have cropped up when breaking bread with others at one time or another.

So, I’m going to try to include a “Lesson at the Dinner Table Post: Subject Title” every week or so as an ongoing theme, to honor my son’s creative idea.  And I hope you’ll join us by including your own post for this challenge!


Community, Simplicity, Harmony & Generosity,


4 thoughts on “Lessons at the Dinner Table: Perception

  1. Pingback: Lessons at the Dinner Table: The Wonder of it All « humanTriumphant

  2. Pingback: Lessons at the Dinner Table Challenge: PERCEPTION | humanTriumphant

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