Do people still say grace before meals? Actually, do families still gather for meals?
Breakfast seems to be a catch-on-the-fly process, grabbing a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee just before rushing out the door. If there are schoolchildren in the home, the activity might be even more frantic.
Who has time to say grace? And what good does it do? Isn’t grace just a perfunctory ritual without much meaning? Why bother?
Pausing for the blessing at the beginning of a meal can bring us to a deeper appreciation of how fortunate we are. Think about what is involved in bringing to us any item that is on our plate. We go to the grocery store or the farmers market and bring home our food. But those vegetables were grown on a farm, perhaps picked by migrant workers. This has been the case for many years, and these persons have become a vital part of our national economy.
When we enjoy a steak, or even a hamburger, we need to reflect on the fact that cattle are bred, fed, grown, and eventually slaughtered so that we can simply pick up our meat at the market. You can easily add to the list.
Saying grace before dinner isn’t just for religious people. In the TV show “Young Sheldon,” the precocious youth in the prequel to “The Big Bang Theory” was having dinner in the home of a friend. As they began the meal, he asked, “Aren’t we going to say grace?”
“We don’t believe in God,” said his friend’s father, “so we don’t do that.”
“I don’t believe in God either,” replies Sheldon. “But we do it at home, and dinner just doesn’t seem right without it.”
The church pot luck suppers back in Ohio, where I grew up, always began with someone saying grace. A phrase that was often heard was, “Thanks for the hands that prepared it.” These words usually referred to the ladies in the kitchen, but should move us to reflect on those unseen persons who worked so hard to get our food on the table.
Taking a moment to give thanks helps us to develop a vital attitude of gratitude. Whether we are thanking God, or becoming more aware of the gifts we enjoy in our own spiritual world, we relate to the many behind-the scenes people and processes that bless our lives. In our modern culture, when it is so easy to log onto Facebook and hurl hatred and insults into cyberspace, we can profit from saying grace before dinner. Maybe it wasn’t an accident that the old gospel hymn “Amazing Grace” permeated our culture when Judy Collins recorded it in 1970:
“The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures,
He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.”
So whatever you are doing on this warm August day, enjoy it, and don’t forget to say grace. You may discover some amazing results.
Harry Bronkar is a retired Baptist minister living in Seven Lakes. Contact him at hbronkar @gmail.com.