“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Family Ritual for Mealtime (Singing toward Gratitude)

This morning we had oatmeal and berries for breakfast, my wife and son and I. Before digging into our food, we held hands and sang the "Johnny Appleseed Song." Actually, it's a slight variation on that song. Our version goes, 
Oh, the earth is good to me, and so I thank the earth, for giving me the things I need, the sun, the rain, and the appleseed, the earth is good to me. Amen -- amen -- amen, amen, amen, AHHHHmen.
 (I've shard the longer, Disney version, below. It's not as robust or off-key as our version!)
Sometimes we sing the original version, belting out, "Oh the Lord is good to me," but mostly we stick with the earth. Our son knows the song by heart and when we sing it slow enough, he can sing along with us, or we'll pause after saying, "The earth is good to...." and he'll sing, "meee."

We love holding hands and seeing each other around the table and singing together. And it's a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation in my family. (A really tender and sweet moment came last year on a family trip when our son was surrounded by parents, grandparents and great grandparents (and uncles and aunts!) and we all sang this song together. Part of the tenderness is that my grandfather is suffering from memory loss, but he knew all the words to this song, and sang with a smile and tears on his face. We all got a bit teared up, too.)

Anyway, our tradition is that after we sing, we ask, "What are you thankful for?" and then take turns saying what we're thankful for. Our son often starts, saying something like "I'm thankful for my mom and dad, and food, and books," and then he digs into his food. Sometimes he's more random in his gratitude list, and he has said some wicked funny things, too. (Like being really thankful for his "sister!" (Which he doesn't have - he's an only child!))

And then my wife and I then express our gratitude for people, food, Life/the Holy/God, family time, the gifts and blessings of the day, whatever it might be. 

It's a ritual that only takes a minute, but it changes the shape of the day and the meal, as we sing together, hold hands, and name the things we're thankful for. It is a precious moment I love and look forward to. And it's a daily reminder of how incredibly amazing and miraculous this planet is - how our very lives depend upon the dirt/the earth underneath our feet.   

Reflection Question: What are the rituals you do on a regular basis, with your family or otherwise? What practices and rituals help shape and ground your day?

P.S.: A quick shout and hello to some of the new folks who have been stopping by this blog! I suspect you visited us at the Lake Harriet Service on Sunday (here's a copy of the homily I shared, if you're interested) and were online afterwards wanting to learn more about First Universalist and Unitarian Universalism. Welcome! 


plaidshoes said...

We sing that one, too. We will often change the "seed" to a seasonal item such as pumpkin seed, maple tree, etc. It keeps it fun and a way to mark the seasons. We also do the, I am thankful for - I find it is good for the kids to remind them of how fortunate they are.

Justin Schroeder said...

@Plaidshoes - thanks for reading! I love the changes you make in the song, depending on the season - beautiful and meaningful. Thanks for sharing that. - Justin

Mikki said...

Getting to this blog late....but did want to share the ritual we created. Since our family doesn't have two sides of the family tree, as they start filling in for elementary school assignments, we created our own. It's a flower. With roots, stem, leaves and petals. Our name in the middle. Every year now for our birthdays we fill it in with the people -- family, friends, loved ones lost -- who are important to us. It's not all genetics/DNA that form us. It's the (changing) relationships and community we build. The names on those petals and leaves will change, but whether you are donor conceived or adopted, we tend to know at a deeper level where are roots are.

Erin L. said...

We also created our own version of Johnny Appleseed...we sing "oh the world is good to me" and then at the end instead of "Amen" we say "Miigwech" (MA-gwitch)which is Ojibwe for "thanks".

It's a way for my husband and I to both be comfortable with the prayer as he is not OK saying "Lord" or "Amen". Turns out just because you are a couple doesn't mean you have the same spiritual beliefs! Who knew! ;)

My 3 year old LOVES doing this and is usually the one to remind us.