To Eat And To Forgive

It’s Friday. Pizza day. At Louise’s house, the par­ents don’t feel like cook­ing, and the kids get a treat.

The slices are out. The sal­ad’s in the serv­ing bowl. Everyone has an accom­mo­dat­ing fork, nap­kin, and slice. I see Eric move a hand to his face in the cor­ner of my eye, and assume that he’s start­ed eat­ing.

As the guest, this means I’m allowed to eat too. I take a bite out of my slice, but before I can even chew, I real­ize that Eric was just scratch­ing his beard. With a smile on his face, he says “Don’t for­get about grace, Jeff”.

It’s a dou­ble wham­my.

Not only am I a rude guest, mis­tak­en­ly eat­ing first, but I’m a hea­then too, dis­re­spect­ful of their reli­gion.

It remind­ed me of some­thing that hap­pened when I was a teenag­er. Matt was over. Pizza night. As the guest, Matt got the first slice. He wait­ed while the rest were being hand­ed out, but my dad, with­out any sense of for­mal­i­ty, took a bite as soon as he had one. Neither of my par­ents noticed, but there was a star­tled look on Matt’s face. He quick­ly closed his eyes, held a fist to his face (not a clenched one, but as if hold­ing the beads of a Rosary), and said a prayer in his head.

I always imag­ined that it went, “ThankyouGodforthispizzaandformygracioushosts”, because he was done so quick­ly.

It made me won­der, what was in that look? What do those who ask thanks of their meal think of those who don’t? What do Christians think of those who don’t say grace? What do Muslims think of those who don’t fast? Are we unap­pre­cia­tive? Do we take our food for grant­ed?

Eric’s tone is kind though, not con­de­scend­ing or judg­men­tal, as if to say, “We only ask you to do this for the sake of our kids”.

Louise asks Sarah if she’d like to say grace. She sings a song that bears a strik­ing — excuse the pun — resem­blance to the melody of the Westminster quar­ters (along with chore­og­ra­phy).

Hark to the chimes (arms held upwards and open)
Come bow your head (hands togeth­er in prayer)
We thank thee lord (arms upward again)
For this good bread (hands togeth­er again)

But as a sev­en-year-old, Sarah does­n’t know the right words. She says “heart” instead of “hark”. “You” instead of “thee”.

No one men­tions it though. Not every­one is per­fect. One can be for­giv­en.

Even me, I hope.


  1. I frankly have always thought it rude that when a guest is present they make them endure some­thing awk­ward. As a Christian myself, but not that kind, I would nev­er ask that. And it seems bela­bored to me: Why not say thanks out loud for every­thing, any­thing, then? I am as grate­ful for many things. Plumbing comes to mind. Air Conditioning. Having a friend who will come over for piz­za. But I don’t say any­thing aloud about it for ben­e­fit of any­one.

  2. Oops. I could see how the periph­er­al vision would see that.

    I’d rather pause for grace­ful­ness than grace but hey, as Xibee says, thanks for all things.

    I’ve been chid­ed by a Muslim man for not say­ing a prayer before eat­ing as he does each time. A nun came to my res­cue say­ing she’s sure I said it silent­ly in my heart. Nope but thanks for her save any­way. :)

    I still recall as a child being called out in some sort of song by fel­low chil­dren, my being com­pared to an ani­mal for hav­ing elbows on the table. People is fun­ny when it comes to food, eat­ing it or think­ing about eat­ing it.

  3. I’m just get­ting to a place in my life where I’m immense­ly grate­ful for so many things.
    I was­n’t brought up ‘reli­gious­ly’ my fam­i­ly nev­er attend­ed church.
    But I real­ly like the idea of ‘grace’ before eat­ing.
    It is so impoprtant to be grate­ful and show grat­i­tude.
    I think we will start teach­ing our chil­dren that habit, being grate­ful for some­thing as ‘sim­ple’ as food to nour­ish our bod­ies.
    Thanks for the post
    and the reminder.

    cheers from the west

  4. Bro, does snack­ing count? Cause man, when I’m at your place, I find my hands feed­ing my mouth sub­con­scious­ly. I’ll be head­ing to the liv­ing room to set­up my nest pri­or to us throw­ing on the upcom­ing movie to enjoy togeth­er and all of a sud­den I find myself eat­ing … chips? “where did I get these?” says one inner voice, imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing is the oth­er inner voice say­ing “go with it”. And so I con­tin­ue to head to the nest and wait for din­ner to be ready before start­ing the movie.

    - SnackMasterPro

  5. @Xibee — Some peo­ple like their guests to eat as soon as the food is served so it does­n’t get cold. I think it’s real­ly prac­ti­cal. Some things we only do because we’re used to them, with­out ques­tion­ing.

    I also agree about being thank­ful for every­thing, but I think that bread is the per­fect sym­bol of every­thing that we have. It’s the first thing that we want, and what we need to sur­vive. A/C or indoor plumb­ing aren’t com­plete­ly nec­es­sary.

    @Pearl — I don’t agree with peo­ple who chide oth­ers. Respect goes both ways; I’ll respect some­one’s cul­ture, but they should respect mine (or lack there­of).

    Most peo­ple (that I hang around with, at least) don’t mind elbows on the table, but I’ll only do it when I notice that the host is doing it.

    There are a lot of fun­ny old tra­di­tions when it comes to food. Tycho Brahe died because he did­n’t go to the bath­room even though he had a blad­der con­di­tion. Back in the 16th cen­tu­ry, it was con­sid­ered rude to go to the bath­room before the meal was fin­ished.

    @amy — I like the idea of grace too. It’s an impor­tant thing to be appre­cia­tive of what we have, and it does­n’t have to be bound to a reli­gion. It isn’t com­plete­ly nec­es­sary to do it every day, but it’s a nice lit­tle rit­u­al to have. Gets one think­ing every day, and helps put things in per­spec­tive.

    @Aaron — Hahhahah…makes me won­der if Christians say grace before pop­ping Smarties in their mouths, or snack­ing on their chips. Just this week­end I found out that grace is said before every meal, includ­ing lunch and break­fast. Made me real­ize that I’ve nev­er been to a Christian’s house for some­thing oth­er than din­ner.

  6. re: Tycho Brahe — Ay yay yay, dying out of polite­ness is tak­ing grace­ful­ness too far.

  7. I know…he’ll prob­a­bly go down as the most polite guest of all time!

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