Setting the Table

Ana Zaldarriaga
Ana Zaldarriaga

"This is my family." Four simple words prove to have a profound and lasting impact.

 Colorful empty shiny plate on grungy background table
During the summer, I had some family over for dinner. My aunt and uncle, whom we don’t get to see very often, were visiting from the Philippines. Despite the fact that they’ve only been with my daughter a handful of times since she was born, they have an intimate relationship. Beyond just kisses and hugs, and general cuddle and playtime with each other, I was struck when my daughter reached for my aunt’s hands, and looked at everyone at the table, and said “this is my family.”

My heart melted.

She had never said this before, and had certainly spent time with them in other environments.  So it wasn’t just about being with them. It was where she specifically was with them. At our table.

The table. Whatever shape or size it comes in, or how it is set, it has been long discussed in educational theories and has become an iconic symbol for family.

Could she really understand this concept? That those who break bread at our table with us are part of our community. That literally what and who is at the table are of significance to our lives.

More importantly, she made it known that when family and friends are over, she needs to  be involved in the dialogue, even on just the topics of pickles and peas. She wants to look you in the eye, lift her glass or fork for a toast, share in a dessert and a good laugh. She has told and listened to stories, induced belly-shaking uproar, evoked tears, and has even brokered peace over pasta.

At 3, she already knows what we end up yearning for all of our lives—a seat at the table. When we are all at her level, and when she can “see” us all eye to eye, she is fully a part of our family and community.  She knows that she is valued because she is there, and that everyone there has value.

It is officially November and the holiday countdown begins. Advertisements are showing decorative table settings in preparation for holiday feasts. As more and more friends and families come for a visit during this season, I will be thinking of who will be  around our table and make sure that everyone has a seat.

What does your table looks like and who’s around it? Share with me below or tweet it @leadershippin

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Ana Zaldarriaga

By Ana Zaldarriaga

Ana Zaldarriaga Pronouns: she/her/hers Sr. Dir. of Employee Development The Leadership Program 535 8th Avenue, Floor 16 New York City, NY 10018 Phone: 212.625.8001 Fax: 212.625.8020 “…building strong leaders in classrooms and communities."