One of the simplest connections my children and I have made with natural world and the global community has been through a simple blessing ritual before our meals. It’s so basic it sounds silly written down, but I was amazed at how it feels so I thought I’d try sharing.
Previously, I’d felt compelled to separate my family from any hint of religious influence in our own lives. I have been so upset by harmful activities in the name of the religion in recent times that I cringed at hints of religion in my family. “Did my child just say, ‘Baby Jesus’ Birthday??’ GULP!!”
Yet, after I stripped away that knee-jerk reaction, I concluded that there’s something awfully hollow in a life devoid of spiritual connection and thankfulness. And, without an overt ritual, it’s been hard for me to consistently remember to be thankful and connect with the natural world. So, my best counter to the distasteful “more more more” mentality in popular culture has been to recognize the place that the natural world plays in our lives and be “thank thank thankful” for it every day.
The children love our ritual and will not let us eat without it. Even baby Chloe, gesturing wordlessly, insists that we bless our food before we eat.
So, here’s how it works:
- Every lunch and dinner, we try to make a ceremony of our meal.
- I wrote a simple blessing on a piece of watercolor paper and the children painted it with cheerful bright colors:
- Before the meal, we set the table and lay out our blessing.
- We all gather at the table (often it’s just me, baby Chloe and Jasmine) and hold hands.
- We take two or three deep breaths. (This simple part of the ritual amazed me. Things can be so hectic scurrying about to get the food on the table, and when we finally all sit down together, our three shared breaths completely change the dynamic of the entire meal. I feel calm and happy, ready to give thanks.)
- We recite our blessing.
- We look at the food on our plates and each of us gives thanks for something on the plate so that we all understand where our food comes from and have a sense of empathy with those who provided it. For example, if we have broccoli, we thank the sun for shining down to make it grow and the people who harvested the broccoli in the fields. Or perhaps we are thankful to one another for harvesting the lettuce from our garden, or the fellow at the farmer’s market who grew and then sold us our beets. If we are eating an animal or an animal product (cheese, eggs, milk …) we might thank the creature for making such a big sacrifice for our meal.
- Then we eat.
That simple. And I’m not kidding when I say the kids love it. Sometimes, in the middle of the meal, one or both of them will request that we do the whole thing all over again, which again starts a discussion of the various parts of our meal, and what sorts of creatures we seem to be thanking more frequently.