Grace Notes

She sat as quietly as a soft note on a Steinway. Poised, demure, wearing a pretty sweater, scarf and jeans. It was well-fitting without a hint of teenage tightness.

Perhaps she was a senior from the Catholic school across the street, or maybe a college student from the nearby university. It’s hard to tell the age of anyone outside of my daughter’s or my own age brackets. In any event, if she’s a collegian on her own, her parents would have been proud of her appearance and comportment.

She waited for her companion in the booth with a half sandwich and cup of soup in front of her. When he arrived (just as stunningly good-looking and clean-cut), she asked, “do you mind if I say grace?”  Of course he didn’t mind and she bowed her head and moved her hand like a metronome up and down, then side to side in the sign of the cross. I was awestruck.  Here I was wolfing down my salad before dashing to the next appointment. Had I stopped to say grace, had I even thought about it?

Fortunately I grew up in a home where grace was said before dinner every night.  A special more extended grace was said before holiday meals. So I’m comfortable saying grace with my family or when asked at friends’ homes. But I don’t say it at lunch. Or breakfast. Or at every dinner. Only when I remember at Sunday dinner when we eat with the good china.

How many Americans still say grace? As recently reported by Religion News Services, about 44% of Americans say grace or a similar blessing almost every day before eating. This statistic is from a recently published book by Robert Putnam and David Campbell, “American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us.” The authors also report that about 46% of Americans almost never say grace.

The Psalms are full of verses to give thanks to God.  A favorite (with a musical note) is Psalm 92:1, “It is a good thing to give thanks to Yahweh. To sing praises to your name, Most High.”

Today, I will venture back into the honoring practice of saying grace. Dinner will be the start, and I can see the blessing of giving thanks at each meal. Next week I’ll add it to lunch, particularly if I eat at my favorite restaurant where the young woman reminded me of an important custom I’d overlooked.

With blessings and kind regards to you all.

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