I grew up in a Catholic family where although there was dysfunction a plenty, we always sat down together for dinner. And dinner always began with grace.
After college I lived in Japan where grace was a formality that never went overlooked and was said in one word, “itadakimasu.” Not always a religious connection, but giving thanks for the meal to those who prepared it.
Before my 89 year old step-father moved into a nursing home, all holiday gatherings began with the entire family holding hands, standing around the table anticipating his “sermon.” For him giving thanks cannot be summed up in one word.
In our house these days with a seven and a four year old, with madness and busyness a plenty, we always eat dinner together and we always start with grace. For my four year old son summing up grace in one word is also not a possibility. He is in charge. We didn’t give him this duty, he has just taken it on – like he takes on all things – with his entire heart. It can even get a little ugly if I try to change the order of grace, or the format, or God forbid cut it short (I mean I am hungry and I am an emotional eater so by the end of the day, I’m starved). He has his grace agenda. He begins with the sign of the cross than proceeds to thank all those he played with that day and mentions more than once his gratefulness for being together as a family. Sometimes he thanks each food item on the plate in front of him.
It’s a moment in the day where we are all present to each other. I can look past the tantrums and challenges of the day and see this little boy full of love, passionate about his prayers, in love with giving thanks, embracing and growing from ritual.