Dinner time for some may be full of peace and quiet but not in my house. With two young girls, ages 6 and 3, it is full of the sound of little feet running while their mom is in chase trying to put food in their mouth with Sponge Bob blaring in the background. Total chaos! Or it used to be.
To bring some sanity to dinner time, especially after a long day at work and the long commute home, I made a rule about a year ago to turn off the TV, sit in front of the kids and also say, “Grace” while holding hands and bowing our heads slightly. Now, I’m not Christian so never knew what Grace was until later on in adulthood so I’m not sure if I’m doing it right. I started with, “God, thank you for this food and our family and everything that you have given to us. Thank you God.” That was it – no big deal.
Initially, my kids would giggle and try to open their eyes as their heads were bowed but as time went on, they became more calm and serious about it. Not serious in a formal way but just found less to giggle about.
Now, they’re saying Grace themselves and won’t begin dinner unless we’ve done it. My 3-year-old loves to say it and says, “Thank you for everything God. Thank you for my camp, my crayons, my Roti (typical Indian bread that we eat almost every night), my Dora DVD, papa’s iPhone, for fresh beat band” and it goes on and on til we all have a little chuckle. Sometimes she goes on for so long that I start getting hypoglycemic…seriously!
This week as I sat at dinner with the stock market crash fresh on my mind, I zoned out my little one’s words as she was saying Grace. As she started to go on and on, my mind refocused and I realized that this little ritual being practiced by a non-Christian family in the suburbs of New Jersey has had a bigger impact than I had initially expected. Sure it calms my kids so we have dinner in peace and quiet but more importantly, saying Grace has helped me be a little more grateful for what I have. Time slows down as I open my eyes, look around me and see my two kids, my wife, my home and a smile comes across my face automatically. For some reason, I feel better listening to her say thanks and find my mood suddenly lifted up from the heaviness of the day.
Now, I am not a religious guy and I can’t put my finger on exactly why but being grateful and appreciative sometimes makes me feel like things aren’t so bad. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen worse when I was growing up. I mean we had some tough times trying to make ends meet when I was a kid. What we have today is awesome. And even though I am worried about the diminishing value of my kids’ college fund, I know that in worst circumstances than my own, my parents managed to somehow put my sisters and I through college, put a roof over our heads and even gave us that old light blue 1981 Ford Fairmont after high school graduation. Not too shabby.
What we went through 25 years ago was rough. All the uncertainty we have today may not be so rough when you have some perspective. There is so much I have to be thankful for today – from the funny things my kids say to the fun we have with good friends to our good health to finding a nice place to live. And yes, I’m even grateful for the IPhone…only if they can find a way not to drop my calls:)
The gratitude of a 3-year-old bowing her head before dinner has taught me that even though I have day-to-day struggles and worries about the mortgage, the job, the finances or whatever…that life IS pretty good. Nothing is perfect and that things have cycles of ups and downs. I just have to remind myself of that by inviting Grace not only to dinner but also during times of stress at work, when I pay the bills, on the frustrating commute home and in moments when I believe life is in chaos.