I can't recall the class at Indiana State University, but I still recall the opening lesson assigned by the professor. We were asked to put down three words on our name tag that described ourselves. Then, we would go around the large room and talk to one another about why.

As typical, it took me longer than most as I pondered on which three words to select. One of the three words still remains within my memory, “Simple,” due to wondering what others would think. Would they stop and give me an opportunity to explain that my reasoning was due to a preference for the simple things in life?

During the pandemic, we have mostly been around our two grandchildren and their parents, taking care of our grandchildren while their parents are teaching. Then, we often stay and gather around their dinner table to eat a home-prepared dinner or a takeout from a local restaurant, a simple and very worthwhile activity.

When growing up, I can't recall eating out much. Ordering food even caused anxiety. The Webster family table was our restaurant as my mom would make it a point to serve the best country food possible for their budget and dared us to serve ourselves. Once married, my wife and I often visited multiple area restaurants after teaching during the day and continued that pattern with our two children.

Local author, Rena Blake Dillman, devotes one section of her wonderful book, "Patchwork Pieces of Life,” to the family table, “Great-Grandmother's Table.” Within it, she writes the following:

“My great-grandmother's table was a long harvest table which was handcrafted by family members with handmade benches on each side and a pair of chairs on each end. … It was the place we all gathered for the most delicious food ever eaten. … My great-grandmother's table was not only a place that nourished our bodies but also a place that nourished our souls. It would be a place we would come back to year after year and yearn for in out hearts long after we had to say our final goodbyes.”

Due to our son-in-law contracting the coronavirus, joining a list of other educators, there were many days we could not eat around the table with him, our daughter, and grandchildren. He had to isolate himself upstairs in their home while sleeping on an air mattress. We, as well as their other parents, would deliver food to their garage door to be picked up. Needless to state, we were thrilled that he only had mild symptoms, and the rest of us somehow escaped this terrible and devastating virus.

After he recovered, we were happy to return to the table as a family and eat together again. The words from our two-year-old grandson as he prayed took on even more meaning for each of us: “God, thank you for this food and family. Amen.”

Then, I thanked our two-year-old grandson for reminding me of the importance of taking time to recognize the beauty all around such as the grass, trees, birds, butterflies, sun, clouds, moon, and stars. And I would always remember his special game of blowing on flies and running away from them.

We feel very fortunate! The dinner table has changed for many families with one or more members dying after being attacked by this virus. Too many people are still dying each day in the United States. Possibly, a simple candle in their place on the family table might be of help; possibly, a simple period of time set aside for sharing good memories might be of help.

No matter what, may gathering at the family dinner table remind all of us of how a simple activity can mean so much to young, old, and in-between.