When I was growing up, my family didn’t say grace before meals. Instead, when everyone was seated for dinner, we’d hold hands for a moment and get quiet. There’d be a couple deep breaths, an occasional giggle from my sister or me, and finally a quick squeeze of hands to signal that we were done.
The only time of year we did take a few extra minutes to share words of appreciation before eating was on Thanksgiving. Some years, my mom would pick out a poem to read. Others, there would be music and a harmonized rendition of Amazing Grace. After that, we’d go around the table and each person would get a chance to offer gratitude for something. After that, the feasting would begin.
Recently, a book landed in my mailbox that has me thinking about Thanksgiving and those moments before everyone tucks into the meal. Called Bless This Food, it is a collection of poems, prayers, and devotions from across a multitude of traditions and era. It includes everything from traditional prayers originating from the dominant world religions, to very old blessings in Middle English, to statements of gratitude from Native American cultures.
Towards the back, there’s even a pair of prayers show in American Sign Language (when I was little, I would have totally taken on the challenge of learning those). If you’re looking for some new words to share at your Thanksgiving table this holiday season, it might be just the book for you.