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When my fra­ternity finally hired a new cook after a year, we were all, under­standably, ecstatic. We were finally replacing the same old cafe­teria food with new recipes, larger por­tions, and more flexible dining options. Life was good. But it wasn’t until after the start of the semester that we realized the deeper blessing accom­pa­nying our dinner plates.

It’s true, the food is fan­tastic. But more impor­tantly, din­nertime each weekday has become a place for friendship. Five days a week, 40 guys in the ATO house come together and simply decom­press. Meals at the ATO house have forced the majority of us onto the same schedule, since we eat at least one meal a day at the same time. This allows us to catch up, joke around, and ulti­mately just spend quality time together outside the context of class or weekly chapter meetings.

Hillsdale College stu­dents are busy, and meals are often squeezed into whatever time is available to cram a couple calories into our mouths. While most of us have fond mem­ories of meal­times with our friends in Saga or local restau­rants, these gath­erings are always the first to be rescheduled and for­gotten when the semester heats up and schedules get crowded.

Don’t let this happen. Class is important. Vol­un­teering is important. Studying is important, but so is com­radery with your peers. There’s some­thing about sitting down at a table over a meal and simply talking. I’m not sure anyone knows exactly what creates this special phe­nomenon, but con­ver­sa­tions around the dinner table flow in a way rarely found in other set­tings.

The rela­tion­ships we cul­tivate in college are unlike any other we will have throughout our lives, espe­cially at Hillsdale. Friend­ships here are rooted in a foun­dation incom­pa­rable to other com­mu­nities. But they’re a flower that only grows if properly main­tained. Friend­ships, espe­cially of the deepest sort, require effort.

Whether it be in Saga, your dorm, or your off-campus house — take the time to have meals with those you care about. You have no idea how big of a dif­ference 30 minutes a day can make in devel­oping rela­tion­ships with those around us.