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On Grace

As I was nearing dinner time last night, I was reminded of the grace my family used to hold hands and say – sometimes almost on automatic – before we’d dig in. The word “grace” conjures up a meaning for me that is a combination of gift, abundance, magic, gratitude and loving-kindness. Rather than “saying grace” before dinner, I think the essence underlying that intention was actually to give thanks for Grace. Although, we now often forget to do that when we get together…

Another family I adore simply takes a moment of silence before they eat. I always appreciate that. I could feel all the tension from the day’s hectic pace just slip away. We’d close our eyes and take a deep breath, then open our eyes again and just look at each other in silence.

In a Buddhist retreat I attended a few years ago, we would eat in silence, contemplating the food and where it came from and how it connected us to the earth and to those beings’ suffering, as we allowed the food to nourish us. Here is a short grace that is resonant with that same intent:

At this time of Thanksgiving we would be aware of our dependence on the earth and on the sustaining presence of other human beings both living and gone before us.

As we partake of bread and wine, may we remember that there are many for whom sufficient bread is a luxury, or for whom wine, when attainable, is only an escape.

Let our thanksgiving for Life’s bounty include a commitment to changing the world, that those who are now hungry may be filled and those without hope may be given courage.

I’m also thinking more of what bounty and abundance actually means. I went into a grocery store to buy water yesterday, as I wasn’t in a place to refill my bottle, and I really noticed the beauty of the vegetables and fruit. What abundance there is all around us! Once a friend who had been having money troubles took some time to meditate on her concepts of abundance and the wealth she desired. She reached a place of clarity, deciding that it wasn’t that she needed more abundance in her life to be comfortable, but she needed to find a way to see that she already had “just enough”.

Certainly the people of Darfur do not have enough of many things – safety, security, food, water, sanitation, justice, freedom and other fundamental human rights. And we know they experience an abundance of violence and hardship. Yet I recall how humbled I felt when I heard their stories during a visit to eastern Chad. They openly shared their experience as well as their hope with me. But they would always end their remarks with “Inshallah” or “God-willing” – seemingly with profound acceptance that their fate was tied to something greater than themselves. Is this too Grace? And so as I continue this fast, I am holding a vision for the possibility Grace might allow a sharing of abundance so that we never have prolonged, unnecessary suffering and so that everyone has just enough.

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