Edited by: James Stuart Bell
Released October 2010
Food for Thought
by Kitty Chappell
“And please bless every person who had anything to do with this food reaching my table. You know who they are, Lord, and each one has a name.”
As I prayed, I pictured the ranchers herding cattle to market, farm laborers working their rows of vegetables, truck drivers transporting food to supermarkets, and employees readying it for my purchase. My heart swelled with gratitude for each of those hardworking people.
But I hadn’t always felt so grateful.
It began one day when I took the matter straight to the Creator of grace. “Lord, please help me to feel more grateful at mealtime. Saying grace has become downright boring.”
As a Christian I understood the value of saying grace before meals. But it had begun to feel like a chore, something “good Christians” do.
As my enthusiasm for this ritual waned, I paid closer attention when others performed it. I heard many heartfelt mealtime offerings of gratitude, of course, but most sounded ritualistic, slightly akin to a superstitious protective measure offered to appease a god who might otherwise be offended and snatch the food off the table.
Even in public settings I sometimes felt grace was said simply to display Christian piety. I suspected observers probably couldn’t care less whether or not “religious” people said grace in public places. They probably longed to see more Christ-like grace in the restaurant. I’ve eaten out with some Christians who, after bowing their heads proceeded to verbally abuse the servers so badly I cringed.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been truly thankful for God’s provisions, including the food that sustains us—especially when I’ve seen starving children with bloated tummies flash across my television screen. What if I lived someplace where I had no food for my precious children? I could barely hold back the tears. So, why didn’t I feel a deeper need to express gratitude at mealtime?
After I asked God for more grace about saying grace, He began to answer my prayer right away. Later that day, an event that occurred years earlier flashed through my mind.
“Tammy,” my husband Jerry asked our eight-year-old daughter, “why don’t you lead us in grace?”
My heart sank. Oh, no! I wish he’d asked David.
David caught my eye. I could tell he agreed with me. I knew his desire sprang not from any superior spiritual depth of his 12-year-old heart, but because his customary “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food,” was briefer than his sister’s recitations. I also knew he was famished since he’d poked his head in the kitchen several times while I cooked.
For the next ten minutes we listened as Tammy’s sweet voice expressed the gratitude of her tender heart not only for the food God provided—listing every item on the table—but for every relative whose name she could recall, and some whose names she had difficulty recalling; the name of every friend she had ever known; every tree; every cute little frog; all the beautiful flowers, “especially Mommy’s roses in the back yard that smell so good—but, God, I really don’t like the thorns, so why did you put them there?” Then she moved to the moon and the stars; the birds and their singing, and “how did they learn all those tunes?”
I couldn’t help thinking, Thank You, God, that she isn’t old enough to be concerned with world peace!
She finally paused, and as we waited for the much longed-for “Amen,” she sighed and added, “And dear God, please help everyone to love someone. Amen.”
As eager hands reached for the food, I was about to gently remind this sweet soul, “Mealtime grace, Honey, should be limited to the subject of food.”
As I debated this, her dad smiled and said, “Thank you, Tammy, that was lovely.”
In my heart, I agreed. I realized a child’s sincere prayers should never be squelched—not even on the brink of starvation. I appreciated her devoutness more, however, after my stomach stopped rumbling.
Now, as I recalled that day and that prayer, for some reason I couldn’t get the last statement of Tammy’s prayer out of my mind. “And dear God, please help everyone to love someone.”
Scripture tells us that God loves everyone. And as we accept His offering of grace—Christ, the Bread of Life—each of us can receive saving grace. This is a lovely thought, I decided, impressed with myself, but what does saving grace have to do with saying grace?
Several days later I read where Jesus blessed the bread before He broke it at His last supper, reminding the disciples of His soon-to-be broken body offered as a sacrifice for all. The Bible has many references about Jesus blessing food before eating but I didn’t recall any specifically-worded prayer for such occasions. Still I couldn’t imagine Him saying “God is great, God is good,” not even as a child. Nor would anyone dream of praying that during communion.
One evening I grabbed some fresh almonds from my snack bowl. Plopping them into my mouth I experienced another flashback. I recalled working at an almond ranch in California decades earlier where I had sat with several women sorting almond nutmeats from the hulls on conveyor belts.
That was a difficult stretch of life for me, my mom, and two younger siblings. Attempting to escape my abusive father, we had fled our Texas home and were living with my elderly great uncle in central California.
My mother, only 15 years older than I was, had a fourth-grade education and had never worked outside our home before that time.
I had been 19 years old and felt responsible to support my little family. We worked any job we could find to put food on the table, from cutting grape clusters at local vineyards, and picking up nuts at walnut ranches, to my nutmeat sorting job at the almond ranch—all the while fearing my father might find us.
Now, reaching again for more almonds, I was struck by another thought: those who ate the nutmeats I prepared never knew I existed. If they had known about me and my situation, would they have cared enough to pray for me and my family?
My mom and I had known God was watching over us, but we felt so alone, isolated from our home, friends, and everything familiar. We really needed prayer, even from strangers. But how could strangers pray for people they didn’t know?
God continued to direct my thoughts. What about the people who handled the almonds I’m eating? They each have needs. Even though I don’t know them, do I care about them? Does it matter to me that they may feel separated from God and others and feel totally alone?
Just how many people were involved in getting these almonds to me? I began calculating: the ranch owner who risked financial investments to start or buy the ranch, hoping for a good crop and struggling to pay workers and keep the ranch going—hoping to have something left over after expenses.
And then there were the workers caring for the orchard—feeding, watering, trimming the trees, harvesting and sorting the nuts, bagging them, and trucking them to their destinations.
The nuts I enjoyed that night came from Sam’s Club. What about the people in that company? Those who did office work, accounting, selling, and filling orders before the almonds shipped to Sam’s central warehouses. From there the nuts were transported by truck drivers to my store, where other workers unloaded them and stocked the shelves. Then a clerk checked me out and gave me a receipt that a final employee marked as I exited.
I was amazed to consider how many people were involved in getting my snack to me! Then I remembered the other items I bought—ground beef, chicken, eggs, and fresh veggies. Each of those items represented its own world of owners and workers.
What if I had to grow my own vegetables, slaughter my own meat, and package it, as my grandparents did on their farm? My grandmother had to wring each chicken’s neck and pluck its feathers before providing those crispy fried chicken dinners we enjoyed. My grandfather killed the hogs for the ham and bacon to go with the eggs gathered from the henhouse. When they had extra meat or eggs, they sold them to local markets.
And all I have to do is go to the store and buy food, without thinking of all the effort expended by others.
As I staggered under the weight of this new awareness, God gave me a final nudge. “Each of those individuals works hard for a paycheck just as you did when you worked at that ranch. They too have worries, heartaches, struggles, and fears. They experience family disappointments, betrayals, divorce, and death.
“They need prayers just as you did. And each of them has a name. Why not thank Me for each of these individuals, and pray their needs will be met each time you thank Me for the food before you eat?”
Because God answered my prayer, my grace offerings are now exciting—and more extended. After all, I have many people to pray for. I don’t know their names, but God does.
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