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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. Follower

    It's not the prayers that make any difference, it's your actions of doing something together that does it. Again, religion is not needed .. YOU have the power you give religion credit for.

    June 12, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Muneef

      Think both are required really....(Prayers&Actions in Dealing with Creature and Creation)...!

      June 13, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  2. foshizzlemynizzle

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

    June 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Yes URA Uneducated Sheep

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNlmZP1eFOY&w=640&h=360]

      June 12, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Yes URA Uneducated Sheep

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

      June 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  3. Patrick

    What god really wants... and this would solve the authors problem.

    If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. - Deuteronomy 21:18-21
    The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it. - Proverbs 30:17
    And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and ... offer him there for a burnt offering.... And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. - Genesis 22:2,10
    The LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon.... And there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. - Exodus 12:29-30
    Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. - Psalm 137:9
    Are you completely ignorant of the book, and the word that you venerate? Did you think before you said "Never would God want a parent to kill their child." Or is your ignorance so insurmountable that even your own good book's teachings are lost on you? Seriously.... w..t..f... is wrong with you people?

    June 12, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Cor

      They are insane and should probably be taken outside the city and stoned to death.

      June 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  4. Patrick

    " find it difficult to accept, that I am any more deserving, or any more loved by a god, than these. "

    Your not...because there isn't a god... you would be human... and kind if you helped those less fortunate. For that is not "god talking to you" with guilt but the true nature of your own humanity.

    June 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  5. Luis Wu

    So, parroting a bunch of ritual mumbo jumbo nonsense to an invisible, supernatural being in the sky over your food made you have a better family? Man, your family must have really been screwed up. It scares me how many people today don't have a good grip on reality and blindly accept ancient mythology as fact. I'm saddened that people are so gullible that they get sucked into a fairytale world full of invisible beings and demons and devils and all kinds of ignorant nonsense. It's just really pathetic.

    June 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Lilu

      And you, sir, are a sad, sad little man who boosts his sense of self from criticizing others.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • BobM

      Lilu, this is as opposed to all the Christians that tell me i'm going to burn in hell for all eternity not because of anything i do, but merely because i do not accept on faith alone that their unsupported version of god is right and all the other unsupported versions of god are wrong? That we are all deserving of this eternal punishment?

      I suppose none of that is an example of, "sad, little (people) who boost (their) sense of self from criticizing others?"

      June 12, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • I_get _it

      Lilu: "And you, sir, are a sad, sad little man who boosts his sense of self."

      Are you then a sad creature who boosts your self-worth by thinking that a perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, incredibly wonderful supernatural being loves *you* and wants to spend the happy-ever-after with *you*?

      June 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  6. Cynthia

    Thank you so much for sharing this–your timing was perfect. My busy family had fallen into a habit of complaining about food (if you can believe it), rushing through meals at different times ("I'm starving!"), and being generally dissatisfied with the whole business. While I struggled to make everyone happy with lists of what foods they liked and didn't like, looking for recipies, strategizing ways to have more than one option available....in the back of my mind was the old-fashioned idea of saying grace–I knew we had so much to be grateful for, why was that so hard to connect to? I knew–like you said–we could be a better family and happier if we could tap into the daily blessings of nature, farmers, the cook (me :), each other–the incredible luxury of having enough to eat and all the lives that make that possible. Thank you.

    June 12, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  7. David Johnson

    It is pretty easy to sit at a table filled with goodies, and be thankful. But it should always be remembered that something like 16,000 children die from starvation related illnesses each day. I find it difficult to accept, that I am any more deserving, or any more loved by a god, than these.

    My Grandma, at Thanksgiving, would solve this problem by asking god to bless and feed all the people of the world. We would all smile and feel warm and fuzzy, once this was done.

    Cheers!

    Cheers!

    June 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  8. Levi

    This secularism kills the purpose of Prayers. Its just satisfaction for the moment and eternity in hell
    A group of burglars would probably sing while dining this way

    Blessings on the notes,
    Blessing on the gems,
    Blessings on the steals and crimes,
    Blessings on the loots,
    Loving hands together as we say,
    Blessings on our meal,
    And our time together

    And you will see people justifying this..
    Bilble clearly states, The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God,

    June 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • John Richardson

      You have a point! So dump the prayers altogether!

      June 12, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  9. bob

    who is Jesus?

    June 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @bob

      You asked: "who is Jesus?"

      Jesus is a myth, like the sun gods upon whom he is constructed.

      There is no evidence, that Jesus ever actually existed. No eyewitness accounts. No secular writings that weren't disputed or hearsay.

      Cheers!

      June 12, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • wrongAgain

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

      June 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • John

      Actually david, most scholars agree Jesus existed, its just whether he was a nutjob or the sun of God that is disputed. Generally people who lived 2000 years ago have no real proof that any of them existed. If you hate religion thats cool, Jesus did too. Just dont be ignorant or in blind denial, it doesnt halp anyone.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • apostate

      A mythological hero who is MIA for starving millions, but at least this family has a table of plenty so they have time to fold their hands and talk to the ceiling.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @John

      There were no eyewitness accounts of Jesus. The Gospels were written by god knows who in the third person. The Gospels were written with an agenda i.e., Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God.

      We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
      -Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (The Gnostic Gospels)

      The bottom line is we really don't know for sure who wrote the Gospels.
      -Jerome Neyrey, of the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass. in "The Four Gospels," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

      Jesus is a mythical figure in the tradition of pagan mythology and almost nothing in all of ancient literature would lead one to believe otherwise. Anyone wanting to believe Jesus lived and walked as a real live human being must do so despite the evidence, not because of it.
      -C. Dennis McKinsey, Bible critic (The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy)

      There are no known secular writings about Jesus, that aren't forgeries, later insertions, or hearsay. NONE!

      Most of the supposed authors lived AFTER Jesus was dead. Can you say hearsay?

      We don't even have a wooden shelf that Jesus might have built. Or anything written by Jesus (He was probably illiterate).
      The Dead Sea Scrolls did not mention Jesus or have any New Testament scripture.

      Jesus, if he existed, was not considered important enough to write about by any contemporary person. The myth hadn't had a chance to flourish.

      Paul's writings were the first, about Jesus. But, Paul's writing was done 25 to 30 years after Jesus was dead. In a primitive, ultra-supersti_tious society, 25 years is a lot of time for a myth to grow. Paul never met Jesus.

      Some people feel that Paul, not Jesus, is the real father of what most Christians believe today (Pauline Christianity).

      Questions on the Crucifixion story:
      "Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save." Mark 15:31

      "Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe..." Mark 15:32

      It would appear, that the chief priests are admitting that Jesus "saved" others. If they knew this, then there is no reason for them to demand that Jesus descend from the cross, in order for them to believe. They already admitted to knowing of Jesus's "miracles".

      I'm sure you will apply Evangelical gymnastics to these verses, but taken literally it would seem that this is just an embellishment by Mark. A work of fiction.

      Here is some more:
      According to Luke 23:44-45, there occurred "about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst."

      Yet not a single mention of a three hour ecliptic event got recorded by anyone. 'Cause it didn't happen!

      Mathew 27 51:53
      51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

      How come nobody wrote about zombies running through the cities? 'Cause it is all b.s.

      If Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God, who died for man's redemption, then this would be the most important event in the history of man.

      Why wouldn't god have ensured there was tons of evidence that this was true? Multiple Writings by contemporary eyewitnesses – Jews and Romans.

      You are going to want to say that there IS lots of evidence, but look at reality: There are way more people, in the world, who are not Christians (68%) than who are (32%). Obviously, the evidence is not adequate to convince even a majority of the world's people.

      Cheers!

      June 12, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Meh

      I like the cut of your jib, David.

      June 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  10. lizp

    How can so many people miss the point of this article? It has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with taking time out of the day to recount how fortunate we are. The religious talk in this article has to do with the origins of blessing food but nothing more. The author is simply sharing a sweet story about reminding ourselves how good we have it and being thankful.

    June 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • John

      They arent missing the point, they are posting in spite of the point. Many people wait in the wings for articles like these, then jump in and spew their hatred for religion because they say religion spews hatred.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  11. LinCA

    To everyone. Please click on the "Report abuse" link below the butterfly videos.

    June 12, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Already on the case! But yes, we do need to stay vigilant!

      June 12, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • John

      Click abuse on ALL videos. I sick of seeing youtube inserts everywhere. It should be banned

      June 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • John Richardson

      The other inserts may be annoying, but they are generally on topic. A limit on how often the same video is posted would be nice. But this is a very poorly run message board in many ways (notably the word filter and lack of screen name control). So I'm not holding my breath re any improvements.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  12. David Johnson

    @adam

    You said: "Just because we don't believe in a higher power doesn't mean we should ridicule those who do."

    Yes, it does.

    Cheers!

    June 12, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • John

      I never understood this. See, i dont like baseball, at all. So its not a part of my life. I dont make fun of people who like baseball, nor do i go onto baseball website and call them foolish. I just dont care. You are so passionate about something you have nothing in common with. Why Is that?

      June 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Actually, there are some baseball fans who are totally pretentious about their favorite sport. They deserve ridicule. Same with certain America soccer fans. Internationally, soccer aka football is simply a hugely popular sport. No problem there. But some Americans seem to think their fondness for the game (assuming its even sincere) shows a sort of cosmopolitan sophistication that, eg, fans of American football oafishly lack, Such soccer fans deserve ridicule.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • John

      Not talking about the fans. I talking about my preoccupation with them. Hey, there are people who go to conventions for fertilizer. I could care less about peoples fanaticism, what im saying is i dont hang out and knock them because frankly i dont care. If i truly didnt believe in a God, i surely wouldnt be wasting a single second of my life arguing with people who do.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • John Richardson

      If baseball or American soccer fans took their superior att-itudes to the point of trying to ban other sports, I'd be on their boards all the time. But as obnoxious as they are, they aren't trying to do things like make ancient theological thought, much of which is of neolithic vintage, the guiding principle for modern society's legal system. So I tend to ignore them and concentrate of the barbarians who really are at the gate instead.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • John

      Its an article on saying grace. It is not an article on how congress wishes to install a bible in your house.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • John Richardson

      We understand the ideology, understand how it always starts out in innnocent-seeming feel goodism and know where it ends up. It is imperative to rebut all of these advertisements for it.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  13. Magical Fairies

    Thank you Science for the invention of preservatives, thank you Science for the creation of refrigeration, thank you Science for the creation of the oven and the microwave and running hot and cold filtered water, thank you science for the creation of a supply line that provides us enough food to eat.

    THANK YOU SCIENCE!

    June 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • dontYouKnowScience

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

      😀

      June 12, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • I spam vids

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urlTBBKTO68&w=640&h=360]

      June 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • morons

      all you people that don't believe in god will one day be judge by him, him self.... So good luck and tell me how hell is.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • LinCA

      @morons.

      I'll gladly take an eternity in hell over a day in heaven with your god and his followers. Any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • John

      If you believe God created science, then isnt that what you are saying? I mean, thats pretty logical.

      June 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  14. trigtwit...America's favorite tard baby

    ...pfffftttthh...drool...

    June 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • to 50shousewife

      LOL... God said pray for people that dont believe in me.. So I will pray for you N wish you well... Have a very great life n please watch what you say and do cause God sees everything. So good luck to you.. lol MORON!

      June 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • John Richardson

      "I love you, pray for you, wish you will and yet still need to scream "Moron!" at you, since I'm so special". Nice one, 50sHW, real nice.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Magic

      50s HW: "watch what you say and do cause God sees everything"

      Yep. "He sees you when you're sleeping; he knows when you're awake; he knows if you've been bad or good, so...." - Santa Claus is Coming to Town

      June 12, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  15. Wake Up Call for Katia Hetter! Wake up Call for Katia Hetter!

    Hi, I'm Katia Hetter, author of this article. I am so carried away by my mommy high that I take my child to a pre-school in a church, but it's not religious, and they say blessings, which are not religious either, really. And because I am really whacked out on my mommy high, I cannot see the forest for the trees. I cannot see that they are indocrinating my child with their religion without my overt knowledge or consent. I am happy that they hide their religion and pretend their religious indoctrination is not religious indoctrination. Even I am falling for it, because I am on such a mommy high that I cannot think clearly, and I am easily fooled by the dishonesty Christians use to convert people like me.

    If I had a brain, I might start to wonder and quietly ask these people about their own beliefs, and if they view blessings as part of their faith. But I am a conformism at heart and I don't like to apply critical thinking, so I will soon be a full-fledged Christian, writing articles on how wonderful Jesus was because he saved me from the tornado that killed all of my Christian neighbors.

    I'm Katia, and I'm easily duped.

    June 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • frank

      just lol.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • John Richardson

      😀

      June 12, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • 50sHousewife

      My first response to your post was MORON but you'd have to have a completely functioning brain for that to apply, which you do not have.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Claudette

      Don't mistake love for dishonesty in your child's school. Prism 1234 below is exactly right. Every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord! I love everyone regardless of what they believe. Jesus said Love your neighbor as yourself and that is what we should do.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • I_get _it

      "Every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord!"

      Words more appropriately attributed to your egomaniacal "Satan" character.

      June 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Cor

      Awesome post! Satire is not a dying art, I'm glad to see. Thank you for the humour, which is always appreciated.

      June 12, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  16. koolkeithforyourmomma

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

    June 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • John

      I wish cnn would ban people from posting youtube links.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • I spam vids

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

      June 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  17. adam

    Mom and dad, thank you for working so hard at your jobs in order to provide us with shelter and food. And thank you Mom for working so hard in the kitchen after you've already worked eight hours today to prepare this meal.

    June 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • John

      If you got a pair of shoes for Christmas, and said thank you to your parents, would it be wrong to not also thank the chinese workers who built the shoes, the fedex man for delivering it, and the president for allowing free trade?

      June 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @John One should be grateful to them, sure. They are all real people who help make the life we enjoy possible, But if you think this chain is going to link to your god, it isn't.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • John

      John richard. I wasnt looking for a link. Just asking a simple question. Why are you looking for one. Arguments and ignorance lead men to war.

      June 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Lisa

      Adam, you are right on! Being greatful,and thankful IS a good thing!! Pay no attn to the negative comments. Kids today need encouragement , you sound like you will grow up to be a very good person, i'm sure your family is proud!

      June 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @John Sorry! I made an assumption based on the tone and content of some of your other posts!

      June 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  18. Kevin

    pure drivel

    June 12, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  19. Lisa Cline

    I thought these ideas were great for little kids.

    June 12, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Lisa

      agree 100%. A good start anyway

      June 12, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  20. Jennifer

    Some nice brainwashing there, singing before every meal.... Didn't you ever try just talking to communicate, instead of resorting to cult tactics to break the ice?

    June 12, 2011 at 12:19 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.