“For the blessings of this food and these friends and our families, we thank you.” That simple table grace spoken by a young boy named Jake is the key event in William Kent Krueger’s book Ordinary Grace. Jake stutters terribly. But when he offers to say grace at the meal following his sister’s funeral he is able to pray in front of a large group of people without stuttering once.
Jake volunteers to pray because his father who is a pastor is getting ready to say one of his usual long-winded theologically correct table graces and his mother who is pretty angry at God about her daughter’s death shouts, “Can’t we just have an ordinary grace?” Her son Jake obliges. Jake’s ordinary grace brings his mother comfort.
Although many people no longer say grace I think the ritual can be meaningful whatever your religious affiliation or even if you have none. It acknowledges the gift of food because we know not everyone in our world can take that gift for granted. When my brother who works in the agriculture industry says a table grace he always includes a thank you to the farmers who have grown the food.
When we lived on the Hopi Indian Reservation before traditional meals were served, a small portion of food was taken from each dish and placed in a bowl which was set on the ground just outside the door. One of the things that action demonstrated was a willingness to share food with anyone who might pass by.
Saying grace provides a way to acknowledge gratitude for the food we will eat, gratitude for the people whose efforts have brought it to our table, gratitude for our relationship with those who share our table and our willingness to share our food with others. Saying a simple grace no matter what our religious beliefs can be a meaningful and comforting ritual just like it was for Jake’s mother in Ordinary Grace.
By the way Ordinary Grace is a great story of a boy coming of age in 1961. The book is suspenseful and well written.