I heard a story about a family in the 1970s who jumped on the tv dinner bandwagon. There was a time before when they sat around a kitchen table and ate their home-cooked meals. They used to tell stories, and laughed at bad dad jokes, but times were changing. They had a new big furniture television, bought little individual folding tv dinner trays, and put their tv dinners in their new fancy microwave to heat up. They gathered around their favourite show to eat. For years, this family was shaped, night after night, by this new rhythm. With all eyes on the tv, their laugher slowly stopped, the stories dried up, and they barely tasted their food.
Then one day the mother of the family noticed that their new and novel way to spend their supper time was becoming detrimental to the health of her family. They did not talk, or look at each other. No one was smiling. So, one evening, the family was surprised to find the table set, the tv turned off and the tv trays hidden away. The family complained, but it was getting them nowhere. Determined to have the family eat again, she set the table, lit candles, and invited her family around. Somewhere along the way they had forgotten the art of eating together. This mother insisted they practice the art of storytelling, question asking, and simple conversation. It took several intentional tries, but slowly, after many attempts, they learned. The family came together.
Practicing the art of talking to each other may have felt contrived and ill-fitting. This family needed to exaggerate what they most valued. They over-stated and over-celebrated what they wanted to see grow. When they did, they found each other again.
GK Chesterton offered a quirky way of thinking about how we change the world. He wrote that saints are those people who are brave enough to exaggerate what is most important. “The Saint is a medicine because he is an antidote,” he wrote. “Indeed that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects.”
There is much that is neglected in our world today. Kindness, patience, peace, and community are sometimes afterthoughts. Beauty, goodness, and faith might languish on the sidelines of our lives after we’ve run hard towards something that catches our attention. It takes brave voices to remind us, even in exaggerated ways, that love is needed, and central. It takes a brave person to put away the tv dinner and gather us around again. Courage is required to create space for what is most important, in spite of voices that call out otherwise. It takes a good amount of bravery to practice love and carve new paths that invite others in.
Today the world, perhaps more than ever, needs those who are learning to exaggerate love. Speak extra loudly your words of encouragement, make your embraces count, give lavishly on those who need to be reminded that they matter, and never worry if you offer too much grace or forgiveness. Exaggerate love and you may find that your life becomes an antidote to sorrow.