In Germany there are certain tables at pubs and biergartens called “Stammtisch”. NOBODY is allowed to sit at them unless you belong to the Stammtisch. Ever. Period. The club owns the table, and often has special steins with members’ names elaborately painted on them. When members are not present, the steins are locked up in a display cabinet.
I had no idea this sort of thing existed, and might have been in peril of being asked to move had I sat at such a table. So when we went to a monastery and were given lunch, I thought nothing of sitting at the big round table in the corner with the other local couples that went with us on the small private tour. I don’t speak much German, the guide spoke little English, but through my husband and his sister, who speak both languages, we found out about the highly unusual treat we were being given of sitting at a Stammtisch.
Our guide’s husband belonged to the Stammtisch and got special permission to host us there. He showed us his beautiful stein, and he and his wife Anita (our guide) provided a lunch for us, including pretzels, fresh horseradish, butter, homemade pickles, cheeses, smoked ham and cold cuts. A real German afternoon, full of warm camaraderie, good food, and admiration for special steins.
Finding warmth among strangers overseas, even when they don’t speak the same language, or being given special permission to enter “The Club” or Stammtisch, is a joy one finds in international travel.
But how do we achieve this at home? How can we get those pesky politicians to start talking to one another? How do we stop the bickering and start the forward progression of the Union those men at Gettysburg laid down their lives for?
Recently my daughter, a fifth grade teacher, posted a question on Facebook about favorite music groups. She wanted to know what her friends considered the best intro to a song, gave them some choices, asked for other opinions, and finished up her post with a one word sentence she probably uses every day: “Discuss.”
The super-power she wields daily in the classroom to get her students talking is as magnificent as Thor’s hammer or Superman’s cape. She simply said: “Discuss.” And her friends on Facebook did, she had lots of comments. I mused that she could go tell that to the jihadists. “Discuss!”
So in this time of political inflammation, with certain catch phrases like “47%” and “Healthcare” acting like mosquito bites, let us not forget the soothing cream of discussion. Let’s invite everyone to our Stammtisch, whether they speak the same language or not. “Discuss!”
Don’t forget the pretzels.