When I was 10, I came to the dinner table one night to find my family’s special red plate at my usual seat. I smiled wide. I had told my parents when I got home that I had received my first “B” in math class, a subject with which they knew I struggled. My mom saw my grin and affirmed what I was thinking: “Janelle, we are so proud of your hard work in math. Your persistence is paying off!” I don’t remember what we ate for dinner that night, but I do remember eating it off our celebratory red plate.

This tradition came from my mother’s side of the family. Whenever Dad got a pay raise, someone had a birthday or we approached such milestones as confirmation, Mom pulled out the red plate.

Even my friends could eat from it when they accomplished something special. After my friends and I became adults, my mother would find a reason, such as a significant birthday or marriage, to gift them with their own red plates. They were always excited to add this tradition to their households.

Whenever Dad got a pay raise, someone had a birthday or we approached such milestones as confirmation, Mom pulled out the red plate.

Naturally, today my family has a red plate tradition. We used it most recently as my husband, an elementary educator, made it through his first week of virtual school. He had been working tirelessly to make it a success for his students. Though we call it a red plate, it really is a plate of blessing or seeing. Through this simple tradition, we celebrate the giftedness within each of us that can often get overlooked.

Furthermore, as Christ followers we understand every breath as gift, every moment of love, tenderness and compassion as worth celebrating. So let’s look for all the ways we can to “love on” one another as faithful families. Perhaps it’s with special dishes or a favorite meal on them. Certainly, it’s in the ordinary where God shows up to do the extraordinary—including celebrating our innate belovedness. Thanks be to God!

Practices

Do you have a family heirloom that could become your household’s red plate? Find an item, such as a plate, or create a tradition to honor members (and friends) of your household.

Family members can share their affection with one another by writing or drawing surprise love notes on sticky paper and leaving them on the bathroom mirrors or in school lunches. These notes are simple reminders of our love for each other amid ordinary days.

Discuss as a family how you can expand the circle of love beyond your household and include others in your traditions. Some ideas include sharing a recipe, a homemade ornament or a ritual with your neighbors in a safe, appropriate way for this time of pandemic.

Janelle Rozek Hooper
Janelle Rozek Hooper is the program director for the Children's Ministry of the ELCA and the author of Heaven on Earth: Studies in Matthew, published by Augsburg Fortress Press. Hooper lives with her husband and two children in Texas. Her headshot is by Amanda Faucett.

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