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. Friend

    God does not bless immoral nations like USA. Saudi has better chance than secular USA.

    June 12, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • MIke

      See – you can't separate prayer from god and murderous nuts. This is why it has no place in my home.

      June 12, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • Friend

      Mike, pagans are ignorant. The Western secularists deny God knowingly. The latter evil is greater. Present USA resembles the Germany of 100 years ago. Blasphemous humanistic idiots.

      June 12, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • cutiepie

      @Friend: G-d blesses good people, regardless of their nationality.

      June 12, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • jim

      Does that also mean that Santa won't be bringing any more presents?

      June 12, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • Friend

      @Cutiepie, yes, the Christians in USA are the last lifeline for the nation's survival. But they are heavily ridiculed and persecuted by filthy secularists. USA needs freedom from secularism. The US government should pay for private schools.

      June 12, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • BobbiJ

      Utter nonsense. Prove to me that God exists, then you might have a chance of scaring me with your fairy tales... but only if, having first proved the existence of a god (good luck with that,) you then proved to me that out of the tens of thousands of variant faiths in the world, YOURS was the right one.

      June 12, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • JT

      Since your desire is to live in a theocracy, perhaps you should move to Saudi or Iran. Or if you're looking for a Christian theocracy then move to Texas.

      June 12, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  2. Luis Wu

    How utterly stupid. Spouting ritualistic mumbo jumbo over your food just shows you've been sucked into a fairytale fantasy world of invisible supernatural beings in the sky and have lost all touch with reality. Why do ignorant people still believe in ancient myths?

    June 12, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • miked

      I hope you think about what you just said when you start choking on your food.

      June 12, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  3. stubbycat

    The humanist's opinion doesn't signify. If we all thought like humanists we would be shut out from the fundamental truths of being that consciousness is determinative, that all is Mind and its infinite manifestation. Because the One Spirit includes even the materialists, though they reject this science, the mental act called "prayer" lifts consciousness when believed in; directed spiritually, prayer overcomes negative thinking, doubt, fear, directs, guides, improves, empowers, meets the human need and magnifies the consciousness of the divine Presence, Love. Learn to think/pray correctly and you will find the kingdom here.

    June 12, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • jim

      Most people don't doubt the efficacy of a comfortable illusion, that doesn't make it true.

      June 12, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Luis Wu

      "No amount of belief makes something a fact." – James Randi

      June 12, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  4. LeShawn

    I do like the fact you and your family are starting to pray. I do feel you have to recognize God though. If it wasn't for God we wouldn't have what we do have. And in my opinion the blessing of the food prayer you posted seems like your praying to a food god. God is a jealous God we have to acknowledge Him.

    June 12, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  5. JP

    As a proud Athetist I rather like this "blessing" provided it doesn't get out of hand. It's definitely worthwhile to take just a moment to remember all of the human effort that's required to put food on our tables. Show your thanks to the migrant workers who toil in the hot sun at minimum wage so you can have a cheap salad and the truckers who drive 6,000 miles to bring produce from California to your table. That's not "faith" in an invisible "God", but rather appreciation for our very real human brothers and sisters.

    June 12, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • stubbycat

      Your implication that the "invisible God" isn't "real" is absurd. Is the invisible oxygen you breathe "real?" Are the facts that the "real" science of aerodynamics, math, and music exists fundamentally as non-sensory, unlimited invisible mental concepts lost upon you? Does the order of the timeless universe and your part in it reflective of the unfathomable Mind which makes and sustains it in ways human mentation cannot perceive have any relevance to you or are you so bland and blah, so gray in your imagination that you are blocked by your senses from seeing and knowing the real nature of the present and the beyond which are One?

      June 12, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • gman

      stubbycat is correct and I hope you realize that even the beloved "dark matter" that science loves is also invisible – it is measurable – well so is God.
      A common objection to the "God hypothesis" is the problem of how God came to be. If everything has a cause, why does God get an exception? The problem with such reasoning is that it assumes that time has always existed. In reality, time is a construct of this universe and began at the initiation of the Big Bang.12 A God who exists outside the time constraints of the universe is not subject to cause and effect. So, the idea that God has always existed and is not caused follows logically from the fact that the universe and time itself was created at the Big Bang. The Bible makes these exact claims – that God has always existed13 and that God created time,14 along with the entire universe,15 being described as an expanding universe.16 Why can't the universe be uncaused? Of course, it is possible that the universe is uncaused. However, there is a tremendous amount of evidence that contradicts that idea (see part 1). So, an atheist who claims to live by logic and evidence cannot arbitrarily assign eternity to a universe that is clearly temporal.

      June 12, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • jim

      @stubbycat Ignorance of the nature of the universe should not be taken as license to invent just anything (however absurd it may be) to fill in the knowledge gap.

      June 12, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • JayGraham

      (It's definitely worthwhile to take just a moment to remember all of the "human effort" that's required to put food on our tables. What about all of the "non human efforts"? Can a human really provide food or is it provided from someone or something greater than us? I can grow vegetables, hunt animals, raise animals, go fishing, and prepare food but I cannot make any of these things from scratch.

      June 12, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  6. Marie Kidman


    June 12, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  7. someoneelse

    The fact that one of the major news corporations (or what passes itself off as 'news' nowadays) still has a 'Belief Blog' or a 'Faith' area is pathetic. Society still has so far to go before we can call ourselves advanced.

    June 12, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • Matt

      Yes, we monkeys can not even evolve out from dying.

      June 12, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  8. starry

    I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Thank you for presenting it. This is a story about not taking things for granted and teaching that to your children. Those who don't get it, never got that message in the first place and this story is lost on them. When we've finally ruined the planet to the point of no return, then everyone will finally get it.

    June 12, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • MrOpinionator

      Oh please. Spare us.

      June 12, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  9. MrOpinionator

    Bless this poopoo, being passed off as a topical interest column. I am sorry for your family.

    June 12, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  10. Seeker

    So wait, why are avowed atheists reading CNN's belief blog? Could it be that their lives are so bitterly disappointing and hollow that they are seeking something that they are missing? Your sarcasm and scorn of those who do believe in a God reek of envy to me. Open your minds to the possibility that there may be something out there larger and greater than you, and seek it out. You will be amazed at what you will find.

    June 12, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • schmit

      @seeker, I find that sooo odd too. Every single faith blog post by CNN.. the atheists flock to it and spread their 'gospel'. Actually, they have nothing constructive to share, but point fingers, crack jokes, and such. The reason why I find it extremely odd is because they constantly say, "You guys want to cram your religion down our throats", and they are doing the exact same thing.

      It's situations like this that build up my faith. I know I'm on the right path when you can see people acting with such hypocrisy, and instead of them seeing it too.. they justify their behavior. While justifying their behavior, they are doing the very thing they can't stand from others... That reveals a lot.. Everytime an atheist attacks without behind attacked... Well, let's just say they damage their credibility by quite a bit.

      For the fun of it, I'm going to go flock some atheist boarrds today and tell them how they are all crazy, call them names, tell them how ridiculous it is, and so on. I got nothing better to do I guess? According to the actions of the atheists on the CNN boards, this type of action is acceptable to them. Oh, wait... that's right.. they don't like religion 'crammed down their throats.' Hypocrisy..... point blank hypocrisy.

      June 12, 2011 at 7:13 am |
    • sumanadevii

      Perhaps they reply as they do because it is their belief? Would you rather them lie? If they don't understand God as you do what do you think will happen? I think God would not be so happy to have a liar stand before him. I believe he will take them into his arms and show them his love.

      June 12, 2011 at 7:18 am |
    • Reality

      From a "flocking agnostic" as a suggestion for another prayer before meals:

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

      I might believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven.

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


      June 12, 2011 at 7:31 am |
    • sumanadevii

      Reality, God never signed on a book deal. If you are seeking you need just look into the eyes of a child.

      June 12, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • MrOpinionator

      Not really. Just keeping tabs on what fools like you are thinking (if you can call it that) these days. Does your crotch itch, is that why you are so angry?

      June 12, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • BobM

      I can't speak for anyone else, but I do it because i realized i wasted decades of my life and tens of thousands of dollars of my money believing in God and supporting my church, getting in return the never-ending reminder that i was nothing but a sinful cretin unworthy of God's benevolence.

      Having finally been able to free myself from the shackles of religion, I hope that someone that's questioning their belief might see arguments of logic, reason, and physical, verifiable evidence and compare them to arguments from ignorance, straw men, and contradiction that ignore easily verifiable facts. People that have completely given in to the delusions of religion are probably beyond hope of rescue, but hopefully there are some minds that can be saved.

      If I can help save a few of them, maybe it'll make up for some of the ones I helped ruin when I still believed.

      Does that answer your question?

      June 12, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  11. sumanadevii

    I think the prayer from a three year old is beautiful. I think she is a lucky little girl to have such a sweet mother that listened to such a simple request. If we believe that all are made in his image and likeness, why not thank those putting food on the table? God is found inside each of us.

    I am thankful for a mother that takes time to learn from the God within her child.

    June 12, 2011 at 6:44 am |
  12. Kris

    I hope there thanking the people who actually worked to put the food on the table and not some fairy tale creator who supposedly lives in the sky.

    My friends and I bless our food as well...We thank each other for working our asses off to provide it and find it insulting when people want to instead pray to a non existent deity who did nothing to bring the food.

    Stop running on automatic..instead THINK

    June 12, 2011 at 6:25 am |
    • Seeker

      Wow! I am now an atheist because you said that there is no God!! Seriously, you sound like one of those lame-o Westboro Baptist people, deriding the beliefs of those who disagree with you. Have some respect for the beliefs of others, and maybe they will actually listen to what you have to say; until then, you are merely a troll.

      June 12, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  13. SoundGuy

    Intention is all that matters. Whether we bless the food, a brother, or the work we do every day, it's the conscious act of wishing positively what makes a difference in our lives, and of those who absorb the good energy. All religions share this basic truth. http://youtu.be/nLWckWtvw18

    June 12, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  14. Tony

    There will come a day when every knee shall bow and every one will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord

    June 12, 2011 at 4:49 am |
    • I_get _it

      I repeat: This sounds just like the egomaniacal demands of your "Satan" character.

      June 12, 2011 at 5:08 am |
    • Dogwelder

      Where are the blessings on the red meat?

      June 12, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • Lisa

      AMEN!!!!! well said.

      June 12, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • JP

      You have no proof of that whatsoever.

      June 12, 2011 at 7:39 am |
  15. Friend

    Secularists succeeded to cripple the unthinking stupid Americans to become godless by causing fear of men for them, but such is the deepest trap for human souls. The Old Testament Bible says so. Read the Proverbs. The godless does not prosper.

    June 12, 2011 at 4:40 am |
    • JB

      Psalm 14:1-3

      1 The fool says in his heart,
      “There is no God.”
      They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
      there is no one who does good.

      2 The LORD looks down from heaven
      on all mankind
      to see if there are any who understand,
      any who seek God.
      3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
      there is no one who does good,
      not even one.

      June 12, 2011 at 4:48 am |
    • doctore0

      In the beginning man created god and the scriptures, and man saw the scam was good, and man said: Let there be fight.....

      June 12, 2011 at 6:12 am |
  16. Faith

    God has always been in my life. I can not see him but I have Faith that he is real. I continue to pray for the non-believers and he continues to bless my life. No God, No Peace...Know God, Know Peace. You non-believers can continue to spew hatred, wisecracks but with God on my side, your lost. Wake up before it is too late.

    June 12, 2011 at 4:32 am |
  17. wutistroof


    June 12, 2011 at 4:26 am |
  18. Bryan

    This seems like a headline from The Onion for some reason

    June 12, 2011 at 4:21 am |
  19. Andrea M

    Because you can't just be grateful for food and company without opening your mouth. I'm always happy to share a table with friends and as a 23 year old, I'm always thankful I have a good job to put food on the table. Lot of people my age rely on parents still to feed them.

    June 12, 2011 at 4:12 am |
  20. listenUp


    June 12, 2011 at 4:11 am |
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