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My Faith: How saying a blessing changed my secular family's meals
June 12th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Faith: How saying a blessing changed my secular family's meals

Editor's Note: Katia Hetter is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly.

By Katia Hetter, Special to CNN

"Hey, we didn't sing the blessing!"

After all these months, my 3-year-old daughter's words still startle me.

Since my family's move from New York to Atlanta, Georgia, last year, almost everything in our lives has changed. That includes the instruction of a blessing before eating. We do it to take a pause from the business of our schedules and to remember all that is good in our lives.

I like our new tradition, but it still surprises me. I rarely heard a blessing spoken before a meal during my childhood.

For one thing, we'd always had a mix of religions around my family’s table. My mom is Jewish and my dad was Lutheran. One person's blessing could exclude another person from the moment, even if neither parent was particularly religious.

I also had family and friends who were religious and those who were not. Who wanted to jeopardize congeniality at the table by invoking one version of God, knowing it wasn't another person's higher power?

As an adult, I continued to uphold my family’s tradition of eschewing spoken prayers at meals. I didn't want someone else's idea of God on my plate in my own house.

Yet I had an inkling that was missing, as I harbored a secret sense of gratitude that powers beyond me had brought bounty to my table.

The author and her daughter say a blessing before eating.

That feeling had crystallized in Thanksgiving in 1999, when I sat as a young adult at my friends' table at their Manhattan apartment. My hosts, Jennifer and Jason, shared their prayer and guests were coaxed into sharing gratitude lists. It was a lovely moment, with people stopping to think about what we had instead of what we wanted.

Later, when I started attending fancy foodie dinner parties with my spouse, where the work involved in preparing the food was enormous, the chef often got applause. But rarely was there any thanks for the people who tended the crops and animals or for the earth that nourished it all.

Around that same time, prayer began to enter my life on an occasion because of my father-in-law, who always says a Christian prayer of thanks at the dinner table. I saw the way it quieted the family and brought everyone together.

Last fall, my child's pre-school teacher introduced a blessing in her classroom, which is housed in an Atlanta, Georgia church but isn't religious (except about being green, recycling and composting).

"The blessing came from my wanting the children to appreciate their food and coming together," my daughter’s teacher told me.

Every child in the classroom knows not to take a bite of snack or lunch before holding hands and blessing the food. Although there isn't any mention of any particular God, a sacred feeling seems to come over the wiggly bunch of 2- and 3-year-olds as they recite it from heart:

Blessings on the blossoms,
Blessing on the fruits,
Blessings on the leaves and stems,
Blessings on the roots,
Loving hands together as we say,
Blessings on our meal,
And our time together.

Does the mention of God matter? If it does to you, yes. What matters to me is that my toddler seemed to benefit from the experience of a blessing, of acknowledging something greater than herself, and we followed her lead.

We haven't deconstructed it or edited it to include concepts she doesn't yet understand. We added "and we're grateful for our family" because she added it.

When my daughter asked that we say this blessing at the dinner table, I simply said yes and wrote it out on a blue sticky note for us to recite. I knew right away that it filled my need for some gratitude shared with family and thanks for everyone who worked to put that food on our table.

When we hold hands and say it or some version of it, we are transformed. We are consciously a family in that moment, grateful and present for each other and our food, regardless of the day's events. It is a sacred moment for me.

And although I'm still the grumpy person I've always been, I'm happier because of my daughter's introduction of a mealtime blessing. I am more likely to stop when I'm upset and remember my blessings because I have practice speaking them out loud.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Katia Hetter.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Food • Opinion • Prayer

soundoff (928 Responses)
  1. jobe

    Saying Grace is about saying 'Thank you' and showing appreciation for what we have, to God, the cosmos, nature, the chef, the farmer. We Americans, really, truly do not appreciate fully what we have. Most of us have jobs (Still), we earn the money to buy the food, the average disposable income on food, Great Britain 8.3%, Germany 10.9%, Egyptian's spend 40% of their monthly income on food. The American family spends 6.1%. Lets write the out SIX point ONE percent!! I don't care if you have a faith or not, be thankful that you aren't spending 40 cents of every dollar you make on food. Be thankful and show it!

    June 12, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • KeithTexas

      I believe that if you took out the top ten percent of Americans that percentage would change drastically. As part of the working class I spend aobut 15% of my wages on food and about 20% on gasoline. 50% goes to housing, electricity, utilities, etc. that leaves me with 15% disposible income.

      I am gratefull that I have what I have but living in America isn't one of the things I am grateful for.

      June 13, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • jobe

      @ KeithTexas – I work 2 jobs, my wife also works full time, I have 3 kids. The figures I quoted where from a UN study, I understand how much it costs to the point I raise own food because I can put $300 in the garden and get $3000 out.

      You have a house/home with an electric bill, water from the tap you can drink. A vehicle you drive. You probably have access to some sort of health/medical services.. Half of China still doesn't, nor does India, Egypt. . Americans have a lot to be thankful for. It isn't perfect, far from it but you still can go out and do something about.

      So if you aren't thankful to be living in America, in the United States, leave. Move. You pick the place, if it is better there then it will be worth you selling everything to get there, to learn the language, and start over. America is only as good as its people, America stops being great when her people stop being great.

      June 14, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  2. Hey There CNN

    I'm getting tired of hitting the "report abuse" button on these spam-videos.
    Mr. Marripodi, Mr. Gilgoff, will you please fix this blog of yours? How can we make comments if we spend all our time hitting the report-abuse buttons?
    And there are other things that need fixing, too.

    June 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Magic

      The videos are annoying, sure, but the word filter and the lack of a search feature are more detrimental to conversation and need more immediate attention.

      Knock on wood... I haven't seen those kablooey pages where none of the replies land in the correct slots and the new posts are flung all over the joint. Maybe there *is* some hope for this thing.

      June 12, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • Tiberius

      They still happen, but everything is thrown to the bottom of the first page now, so we don't get the constant responses to the messed up replies that end up filling the whole page with scattered replies to scattered replies.
      When you click on the article, it still takes you to the last page, and all the pages print with the newest comments at the top.
      All they did was turn a bunch of stuff upside down (maybe they were listening to "put that thing down, flip it, and reverse it" in that song by Missy Elliot?) and sweep it under the rug. They didn't really fix much but the result is that we don't have to look at that stuff on the last page anymore.
      It could have been worse I guess. But all the other problems remain. That's life with the CNN Belief Blog, I guess.

      June 13, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  3. Matt

    @John Richardson
    Can you tell the difference between Gaia and Jehovah?

    June 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Do you mean the difference between the properties attributed to Jehovah and those attributed to Gaia? Of course.

      June 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  4. KeithTexas

    Prayer may not do anything at all but I feel better afterward so it really doesn't matter what the reality is for you, my reality is that I feel better.

    June 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  5. tallulah13

    As far as I can tell, people post videos when they are too lazy to speak for themselves.

    June 12, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • John Richardson

      What's particularly annoying is that they are posting many of the same ones over and over. I would have no problem at all with people who posted the occasional link to a video not already posted multiple times. But it IS getting annoying the way people are actually doing it.

      June 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Tiberius

      We've already seen what a spam-war of videos looks like.
      I am not a YouTube fan. When I feel the need for a particular video I go looking for it. This is not YouTube.
      I come here to see their list of news items and how it compares to other news sites.
      Commenting on the news is always more interesting than just reading some probably slanted news article.
      This is one of the worst blogs on the net. WordPress is used all over the world and there are better managed blogs out there. But I come here from time to time to see what sort of silliness is going on.
      "There's always something." -Roseanne Roseannadanna, SNL

      June 13, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  6. sciencesupportsgod

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLR87QYlf_s&w=640&h=390] 😀

    June 12, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  7. scienceiscool

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYzPZis9X_o&w=640&h=390]

    June 12, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  8. Matt

    To everyone cutting and pasting videos....If we wanted to watch a video we would visit youtube. So please, leave your videos there.

    Thanks

    June 12, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Sick of Spam Videos Last Year

      AMEN to that!

      June 12, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  9. highmynameis

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1e4FUhfHiU&w=640&h=390]

    June 12, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  10. kris kross

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maoGItxwTTA&w=640&h=390]

    June 12, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  11. PRISM 1234

    Check it out... The movie worth to see:" "the Appointment" ..... There is one awaiting all of us! No exception!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfzC6cXHRqg&w=640&h=360]

    June 12, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • diamond dave

      hahah, whoever posted that video... haha.

      June 12, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  12. diamond dave

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms2ajqlNHeI&w=640&h=390]

    June 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @ video posted by diamond dave – R.Zacharias on "Sin"

      Dare to listen all 5 minutes of it! ... And then, dare to say that it isn't so! ! !

      June 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  13. dukenukem

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpEyqRtJw_E&w=640&h=390]

    June 12, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  14. gangstarr

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wctTgF5vDnE&w=640&h=390]

    June 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  15. DasEFX

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwo4Zq-CyFs&w=640&h=390]

    June 12, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  16. Friend

    So, in America kids don't say thanks to their parents but just say "bless my toys" and walk away. Must have a lot of mental hospitals there.

    June 12, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • With Friends Like Friend, Who Needs Psychotics?

      Ah, our dear schizoid Adelina Frederica Justina FairGarden Friend is once again making wild, absurd, totally wrong sanity-challenged statements about a country where she has never been a citizen and where she does not live.

      American children never say thanks to their parents? American children just say "bless my toys" and walk away?

      Ah, our dear schizoid Friend. Here once again to share the warmth and insight of Christianity.

      June 12, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  17. latasha

    reponse to TheRationale

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ih-b0RkgFnw&w=640&h=390]

    June 12, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  18. latasha

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8BzqRvXxc4&w=640&h=390]

    June 12, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  19. TheRationale

    Yes yes, be thankful that God chose you among the billions of people to not be starving or suffering from disease or war.

    If he exists, he doesn't give half a sneeze about anyone. Either that or he's playing favorites. In any case, he's not any God I'd like to befriend.

    June 12, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • lilwayne YAYUH!

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwo4Zq-CyFs&w=640&h=390]

      June 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • muthar tureeeza

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9b0PJDDof4&w=640&h=390]

      June 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  20. Dios te ama

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opch9wMjocY&w=640&h=390]

    June 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.