” ‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.”
– Alice Walker
I’ve toyed with many religious beliefs and practices, in a search of knowledge and inner peace. Once too gregariously: A couple of Mormon elders on mission were kicked out of Aix-en-Provence, France, for fraternizing with my roommate and I. We were practicing something other than religion, but that’s another story.
A few years ago, my husband and I saw the Dalai Lama speak. I toted a notebook to the event, but he is so darn enchanting, funny, and soft spoken that the results are mainly chicken scratch.
“Stick with the tradition you know, instead of changing. Keep that as your foundation and build,” is what I wrote that day. His Holiness has great respect for all religions (including non-believers). His wise words on religion so grounded me that I called off my religious quest.
I was a plaid-jumper wearing Catholic School Girl. (My husband was also raised Catholic.)
Do I believe in all-things Catholic? No.
Yet heeding his Holiness’ words, we are sticking with Catholicism, albeit our churching going is lacking. We’re not quite twice-a-year-Catholics: we’re in the pews on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and a handful of Sundays too.
As a child, my family prayed a traditional Catholic grace, “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”
I wanted our blessing to be more universal, and kid-friendly. I created a prayer, and linked it to the tune of “London Bridge”
My youngest likes to hold up her fingers and lead us: 1, 2, 3:
Thank you for the food we eat,
Our family and our friends.
Keep us safe and healthy,
We help and care for others.
Simple, yet the blessing speaks to a few basic elements of religion: Love, gratitude and compassion.
Unity. The ritual of giving thanks before dinner is a way to establish togetherness. Together is better, right? I look forward to my father-in-law’s blessings at family gatherings. He likes to draw from his wife’s Gaelic roots. A favorite:
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
My family is of Polish ancestry, so I have fond memories of breaking the oplatek before Christmas Eve dinner. We crack a piece of the wafer off, say a wish for the upcoming year, and pass it on. When I lived in France, my mother stayed connected by sending oplatek in a greeting card.
Thankfulness. Our prayer reminds us to be grateful for our food, health and safety. Afterwards, we go around the table, sharing the best and worst parts of our day. The initial response is sometimes, “I don’t know,” or “I didn’t have a best part.” But with a little prodding, the answers are candid. The question opens a window to what is impacting their lives – amusing, serious, emotional, and sometimes, surprising details emerge.
It’s a start. We are at the ground floor, as indicated by my 3-year-old. “Were you frustrated today?” I asked her this week. “No,” she replies with a huge grin. “I’m happy.” She lives so fully in the present that the idea of past emotions does not register. But my 6-year-old is on board. She says things like, “I was frustrated because Jessica said she did not like how I sign ‘Love’ at the end of all of my cards.”
Service of Others. The second question I ask is, “How did you help someone today?” It offers us a chance to talk about what helping others looks like. My youngest usually says, “something Zoe.” The question is so linked to our song, that when I asked her, “How did you help your friends today?” in the car yesterday, she started singing, “One. Two. Three. Thank you God …”
A quick google search on helping others, lead me to Help Others. There is deck of cards to click for kindness ideas. There are four themes: helping people you know, helping strangers, helping yourself and helping your planet. I am considering a 30-day challenge using these cards.
Do you have a dinner time prayer? Do you talk about highlights and lowlights with your children, or your significant? Or maybe just yourself?
(Top picture is a picture I took of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.)