How Passing the “Spoon” Brings Order to Conversation

“If thou desire the love of God and man, be humble, for the proud heart, as it loves none but itself, is beloved of none but itself. Humility enforces where neither virtue, nor strength, nor reason can prevail.” -Francis Quarles

A few years passed without seeing a particular family, and it took almost a year to get a date on the calendar where all of our kids would be home and together. Over Christmas break our two families came together for what someone peeking in would say was a rather “lively” or “energetic” meal.

The other night, my husband and I were reminiscing about our time together over the holidays, how impressed we were with all the teenagers sitting around our dinner table, so polite, so full of zest, with a zeal for life–and actually, very humble about their many accomplishments. A few came back from college, a couple still in high school, we didn’t have to tell them ahead of time how to behave, to put their cell phones away, to interact with other people, to engage in the conversation, or how to be a part of the evening. All of the kids knew what to do, were free to voice their opinions, and participated in the evening in many ways.

We shared college stories, literature, spiritual matters. Pandora was playing, kids were singing, the piano and violin played late into the evening … we spent hours together on a Saturday night. Later we knew this evening would be a memory our family would never forget. Taking it a step further, maybe even a spiritual moment. I know it was for me; maybe for all.

We barely got started with the dinner–I think we were on the salad course–when already there were so many common interests that a person could not finish two sentences without someone else chiming in.

This is where the spoon came in.

We resorted to passing a spoon, which meant the person holding the spoon could speak. In some cultures, you may have heard of “passing the stick” in the same regard.

Passing the Spoon: The person whose hand is holding the spoon gets to hold court–to speak, without being interrupted. Everyone else listens, holds their comments or ideas, and waits. It’s a way to bring order to conversation, which we needed. :) What we gained was, by focusing on one person at a time, the “spoon” allowed even the quieter person to get in on the conversation.

Paul and I counted the years of parenting for both families put together–almost 40 years.

Forty years of parenting … that is a lot of hard work, perseverance, prayer, teaching–put into our kids.

Forty years, well-worth the energy of every minute spent guiding and directing, loving and disciplining …

Have you ever used the “spoon” approach to conversation around your dinner table?

7 comments on “How Passing the “Spoon” Brings Order to Conversation”

  1. No offense to the spoon thing, but I prefer a relaxed, stream-of-consciousness type of discussion. I had a hostess “pass the stick” at a reunion gathering, and I simply did not like the idea of abruptly, all of a sudden, ending a perfectly enjoyable dinner table conversation and start talking about myself. I was enjoying the free-form conversation as it was – natural in an organic way and way more informative that if I had listened to each gal pick something out of her life to talk about for two minutes. Call me crazy, but oh, well!

  2. Before my husband and I got married, our church required that we go through marriage classes. One of the lessons we learned was similar to passing the spoon but they gave each couple a square of linoleum floor. Whoever had the square “held the floor” and the other had to listen when they spoke. It was a good lesson that I think we sometimes forget about. Thanks for reminding me to pass the spoon (or the floor).

  3. Hi Sandy,

    What a cute custom! I am definitely going to implement passing the spoon next time one of our dinner parties becomes a chorus of voices!

    And thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts about bringing all the young adults together. It was so sweet to read how they have all grown into such wonderful people. When I look at my own son who is now a teen, I am starting to see the traits of a fine young man developing. It’s hard to believe! It seems like they were just babies yesterday – doesn’t it?!?



  4. I jokingly suggested we might need to do this and my daughters said somebody might get hurt with that spoon! We never realized how much we “chase rabbits” (interrupt each other, then come back and finish stories) until our oldest daughter married an only child who didn’t have to share the floor with anyone. Now we “hold our thoughts” in our hands, sometimes holding them for each other if somebody runs out of hands. It’s all a lot of loud, boisterous, split-your-side laughing fun when we all get together!

  5. Your story reminds me that I shouldn’t hog a figurative spoon either and should listen and let others have their say without interuption. i will keep a spoon in the back of my mind.


  6. Love this idea. My side of the family could really benefit from the spoon for sure! :0)

  7. Sounds like you had a wonderful evening, Sandy. Love the passing the spoon idea and may use it at our next big gathering.

    We are having a couple for dinner in a few weeks – old school friends of my husband (who I don’t know really well) and I’m hoping that we will need to pass the spoon as the conversation should be lively (politics, reminiscing and religion as she is an Episcopalian minister in training) Should be a fun night.

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