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Sometimes There Is an 'Easy Answer'

September 23, 2010

Sometimes There Is an 'Easy Answer'

Life is filled with complexity: Tensions, conflicts, problems galore (as well as, thank God, a lot of joy, beauty, and goodness!).

These difficulties are usually so complicated that we're tempted to conclude, "Well, there are no easy answers."

Yet, every once in awhile, you discover an answer so simple it is downright profound.

Joseph A. Califano, Jr., is a man acutely aware of this life's bad side. He served presidents in areas such as urban affairs and health matters, and now he is founder and chair of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. In other words, cultural evils such as drugs, alcoholism, unemployment, violence, broken families, crime, poverty, and physical and emotional illness are part of his daily agenda.

He is realistic about these towering problems, knowing that, in many ways, there is no "magic potion" to solve them. No wonder he's spent a lot of time, money and energy getting scholars to do much needed research on all of these perplexing evils.

So, when an "in the trenches" guy like Brooklynite Joe Califano comes up with an easy answer, we had better sit up and listen!

Are you ready for his prescription for the many maladies that afflict society?

Families have to eat together!

Yes, you heard me: if a family has a meal together regularly, as often as possible, at least two or three times a week, the members of that family have happier, healthier (and, by the way, holier) lives.

Dr. Califano's evidence is far from anecdotal. Just ask him, and he'll show you the research to prove that a family that sits down together for a meal on a regular, consistent basis, is more united, civil and peaceful. The children have better grades, stay longer in school and are statistically less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol and tobacco; they are more likely to hold jobs and stay out of trouble.

I guess we Catholics should hardly be surprised at all by all of this. Most of us 50 and over can recall that supper together as a family was rather routine and taken for granted, with Sunday dinner the most significant. We know as well that the Sunday meal—the Mass—of our supernatural family, the Church, is indispensable for our fidelity to Jesus and His Church. We Catholics also belong to cherished ethnic backgrounds, which celebrated every Sunday, holiday, holyday and important life event—baptisms, first Communions, birthdays, marriages, even deaths—with family meals.

Come to think of it, any man or woman of faith will probably need no convincing about the accuracy of Dr. Califano's easy answer. Our Jewish neighbors, for instance, just completed holy days that surely included united, festive family meals.

Joe Califano has turned into a Paul Revere shouting out this easy answer.

I am enthusiastic in supporting his Family Day—A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children, scheduled for next Monday, Sept. 27.

It's a start. This news is just too darn good to keep to ourselves! Our parishes, schools and programs need to get behind what should be a national crusade; let's start sitting down for a family meal as regularly as possible.

In a world stuffed with complex issues, there is at least one easy answer!