Manner #4: Blessing the Food, Saying Grace, or Whatever You Want to Call It
Background: We start each meal with a blessing on the food. And if I forget, one of my children surely reminds me. It is an opportunity to express gratitude for the meal before us. Now you may or may not say grace regularly, if at all, but chances are you will visit someone for dinner that does – especially on Thanksgiving. Our kids will be more confident and comfortable if they know what to do in different situations.
Attention Getter: My husband said the prayer for dinner. (He was prepped before hand). In a serious voice he said, “Rub a dub dub- thanks for the grub. Amen.” I wish I had a picture of my kid’s eyes as soon as the prayer was finished. It was a mix of confusion, shock, bewilderment and humor. It was completely silent for a moment as they tried to figure out what the honk was happening. A few giggles emerged and then when we (the parents) lost it, they knew it was a joke. I told them tonight we would talk about saying prayer over meals.
Manner: We discussed the tradition of grace at meal time and how every home does it differently. The first manner to remember is- don’t eat until after the prayer is said (I love this lesson in delaying gratification). Second, if you are the one saying grace make sure everyone is ready before you begin. I had to cover this because sometimes my hungriest kid (take a guess) will just start praying over the top of everyone while they are still gathering so he (you guessed it) can eat. Lastly, participate in prayer. In our home it is standard to fold your arms, close your eyes, and bow your head. During the prayer, stay quiet and say “Amen” at the end. Now some families stand; some sit. Some hold hands, some fold their arms. Some repeat a standard prayer; some just talk to God. Whatever the custom, just be respectful and quiet and follow the hosts lead. This doesn’t mean you agree or are compromising your own beliefs.
Why?: It is merely showing respect for others beliefs. I remember being at a friend’s Bat Mitzvah where we read, chanted and sang Jewish scripture. I am not Jewish and I certainly wasn’t comfortable. (I don’t sing well, let alone in another language). But I did it anyway as a gesture of acceptance, tolerance, and respect. We give people the same respect we would like them to give us if they were in our home.
(Remember, after the prayer is said, you put your napkin on your lap. If grace is not given than watch the host’s lead for when she puts the napkin in her lap.)
Practice: Since we say prayers for every meal, we get to practice this manner a lot. But we still have to work on closing eyes and waiting for the those at the table to be ready. We came up with this poem to cue us: “Fold your arms, bow your head, close your eyes, while the prayer is said.” This prompts everyone to get ready. We started over more than once and inappropriate requests like “Bless my buttox” still made it in to some prayers. (But hey, if she were closing her eyes while she said it, we are making progress.)
Follow-Up: After dinner we did a gratitude activity. This was to help us remember all the things for which we have to be grateful. It also gave us lots of ideas for things to mention in our prayers since my son was resorting to “Thank thee for everything.” This was his way of covering it all but getting to eat faster. (I gotta commend his efficiency- a boy after my own heart). We drew letter cards and had to think of something that we were grateful for that started with that letter. It was a perfect way to start off the week of Thanks–giving.This leaf garland from Pebbles in My Pocket is what I wanted to do for my gratitude extension activity but I ran out of time (imagine that). Maybe you will have the time to try it.