A Week of Gratitude: Tuesday
A Week of Gratitude: Thursday

A Week of Gratitude: Wednesday

It's Thanksgiving week here in the US . . . a week traditionally spent cooking, gathering with friends and family, and reflecting on our many blessings. I've decided to take a little break from my usual blog "structure" (such as it is) to focus on gratitude this week.

IMG_1666

When I was growing up, "church" wasn't a terribly important thing for my family. My sister and I went to Sunday School on the regular, and my mom took us to church in what I'd call sporadic fits and starts. (My dad rarely went with us.) I sang in the choir for awhile in middle school, and went to a few youth group activities now and again. I went through confirmation in 8th grade. But . . . let's just say I didn't find what many others find in organized religion.

We did, though, say grace before every evening meal throughout my childhood. It went like this: GodisgreatGodisgoodLetusthankhimForourfoodAmen. Just those words, all slurred together. Every night. Eventually, as my sister and I got older, we just . . . stopped. 

Fast forward several years: Children of my own. Tom and I took them to church and Sunday School throughout their childhoods. We found a church that we liked, and so we dabbled in oganized religion for a while (until our minister retired, and we discovered it was him that made our experience special, not the church). 

Anyway. We did, as the kids grew up, say grace before every evening meal -- a very familiar prayer: GodisgreatGodisgoodLetusthankhimForourfoodAmen. Eventually, as the kids grew older and made the whole thing more like a game of who could get the words out faster, we just . . . stopped.

Saying those "grace words" - or not saying them - had no real bearing on the gratitude we felt for our meals. Not when I was a child; not when I was a parent of young kids; not now. But those words did create a pause-before-eating; a chance to separate our eating a meal from the rest of our lives. I would argue that "saying grace" before a meal doesn't actually need to include any words (rote memorization or spontaneous prayer) at all. For me, "grace" . . . is a pause. Just a quiet moment of gratitude for the meal before the eating begins. A pause . . . to acknowledge that our food didn't just appear out of thin air! Someone grew it, ground it, bought it, cooked it. And for that, we are grateful.

So tomorrow, as we gather in whatever form we're mustering this year, I encourage you to . . .  pause . . . before digging in. Fill it with words if that's your thing. Or don't feel guilty about silence if words aren't your thing.

"Gratefulness -- 'great fullness,' as Brother David Steindle-Rast reminds us, 'is the full response of the human heart to the gratuitousness of all that is.' Truly every single thing we have has been given to us, not necessarily because we deserved it, but gratuitously, for no known reason. And whatever source we believe is the giver - some concept of God or simply the breathtaking randomness of the universe - when we give thanks, we take our place in the great wheel of life, recognizing our connection to one another and to all of creation. Offering a blessing, reminds Brother Steindle-Rast, 'plugs us into the aliveness of the whole world.'"
       -- M.J. Ryan, in the introduction to A Grateful Heart: Daily Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles

Plug into the "aliveness of the whole world," my friends.
There is much to be grateful for -- and many ways to offer a blessing.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Mary

Lovely, Kym. I especially like the idea of "saying grace" as a "pause" ... to acknowledge the gratitude.

Patty

Wonderful words Kym.

Dee

Beautiful post.

Karel

Agreed: Beautiful post.

Bonny

I was made to go to church when I was growing up, but there were so many things I disagreed with (mainly how girls were treated in our old-school Episcopalian church) that I just never felt comfortable with organized religion. When I had kids of my own I wondered how to handle the whole question of religion, but it pretty much took care of itself, in the form of fervent prayers I used to speak soundlessly for the boys at the bus stop to them giving sincere thanks (for so many wonderful and funny things!) before meals. Thanks for helping us recognize and remember the pause.

Carole

The pause before dinner reminds me of meditating - the pause between the in breath and the out breath is SO important.

Carolyn

What a neat way to think of it, Kym. The pause. I've often thought about how I've never been a grace- sayer before meals, despite my penchant for ritual. As a kid, we did have the same one you recited, which we said on occasion but not with much reverence (rhyming 'food' with 'good,' so it came out more like 'fuhd'). While I'd never thought of it as a pause, I light candles before our evening meal. And it DOES offer pause, because it takes me a little while to get down the line of 5 fat candles on our table. I think I'll encourage my crew to experiment with some SILENCE during that pause...a kind of grace all its own.

Kathy Boyer

The only time we pray together is before dinner. I HAVE THAT SAME BOOK and for a year I read one of those prayers, before our dinners. I marked the dates and if I had chosen a certain prayer for a specific issue that day. Thanks for reminding me!

Sarah

Regardless of one's religious beliefs (or lack thereof), I think we can all get behind taking a moment to appreciate that we have food on our plates and many other things, this year especially!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Vicki

We went to church on Easter and sometimes Christmas. My kids went to church whenever they slept over on a Saturday night with someone who did. We never said grace at home when I was a child, nor as a mother.

When I was a kid, we celebrated many holidays with big family meals at my grandparents'. My grandmother was very religious and active in her church, and sometimes we'd join a Sunday School class (she was the program director). Anyway, she would always choose someone -- usually a child -- to say a prayer before the meal. There was only one that we knew, "Blessusohlordandthesethygifts..." which we would all practice together on the way to Grandma's! One year, I don't know if it was because he was chosen or just decided it was his turn, my Uncle Jim, fresh from his first semester at college, stood up and cheered, "RUB-A-DUB-DUB, THANKS FOR THE GRUB! YAY GOD!!" Grandma just about died, but there's no denying the message. Haha!

Margene

As a church going, constantly praying, always living in 'gods grace' family growing up, I was (and have been) happy to let any religious ritual go by the wayside. I have no use! But, then I do think that acting, thinking, and practicing gratefulness is important to living a good life, a caring and honest life. A pause, whether a touch of hands with the person next to you or a deep breath in (or out), are ways we can acknowledge the gifts giving to us by grace. (Dog, I sound so religious! LOL)

The comments to this entry are closed.