( Originally Published 1916 )
IN the days of our youth the family never sat down to the table without the blessing. All heads would be bowed, and all the clatter of child-voices would hush, while father would say:
"For what we are about to receive, O Lord, make us truly grateful. Amen."
Alas ! the blessing is gone. Nobody gets up to breakfast, or the affair is a "movable feast," where one at a time the people appear, snatch a bite and a sup and hurry away.
There are even many who have their coffee and rolls while lying abed; of which custom let us say nothing.
City people eat their midday meal downtown in restaurant or club, where, of course, there is no room for blessing—quite the contrary.
The family usually gathers at dinner, but in how many households do they fall to, like unsouled animals, without one word of grace to redeem the crassness of feeding?
I hold it is not a matter of belonging to a church, believing a creed, or professing to be pious, but that it is an act of decency, and of human dignity, and of that spiritual self-respect all souls ought to have to say grace.
Adopt the custom in your household. Let there be at least one minute in the day when, as a family, officially and ritually, you seriously recognize that you are children of the infinite, pensioners upon the bounty of "a power not of yourselves."
Don't let your peculiar theology, or lack of it, hinder you from a sweet and wholesome ceremony that may light up a sordid day with a little beam of the Sun of souls.
One family I know used to sing the blessing; and who, whether Jew, Buddhist, Christian, or agnostic, could be anything but bettered by joining for a moment, before eating, in this hymn?
"Be present at our table, Lord;
If that sounds too churchly, say the quaint "Selkirk Grace," once used by Bobby Burns :
"Some hae meat and canna eat,
Think! Here we all are, fellow travellers, upon "the good ship Earth," whirling through starry ways. We know not whence we came nor whither we go. We know not our appointed time. There is some power, some mind, in the sum of things, that has all these secrets.
Eating should be the sacrament indicative of our reasonable reverence for that Supreme Guiding Spirit.
Say this grace of Robert Louis Stevenson, liberal enough for all, to whatever power you believe in:
"Help us to repay in service one to another the debt of Thine unmerited benefits and mercies."