Hearing the outrage of the religious right over the lack of prayer in schools and government institutions irritates me down to the tiniest molecule of my being. Just recently the Supreme Court heard a case over prayer in a legislative setting. I heard about the case on public radio and had one of those driveway moments, or in this case, garage moments, where I get home, sit in my car and listen, delaying my all-day-long anticipated homecoming, until the story is over. I listened to the bitter end in hopes of hearing confirmation of my belief, which is, if you need prayer before school, or before you govern, do it in silence, or attend church before you get to the tax-payer supported building. Do not take up the time of those of us who disagree. Atheists and agnostics, Hindus and Muslims, Jews and Buddhists, we're all paying for the air conditioning in the room, the carpet upon which the teacher stands, the podium upon which the teacher lays her good book. If we're not all represented, don't do it.
We can all benefit from a moment of silence, however. To breathe, to reflect, to give our minds a bit of space to detach from the stress in our lives. It seems pretty simple to me.
Lest I appear to be an unspiritual being, I will share what words I prefer to be said at my dinner table. Itadakimasu. It's a phrase said typically in Japan. I first heard it from a friend who is of American and Japanese descent.
Itadakimasu means, I humbly receive. It's meaning is to express gratitude to all who played a role in growing, harvesting, shipping, selling, buying, preparing, and serving the meal. Many human hands are involved in any given meal. I believe it's right and good to acknowledge the work of those who made the meal possible, which may or may not include a higher power, depending on your own beliefs. I like it because it honors without separating believers from other-believers. It gives thanks without offending. And it shows appreciation for those who got up early and sweated in a hot kitchen to put the turkey on the table, to make that homemade pie crust, to clean the house before guests arrive, as opposed to those who sat on their rumps and swilled beer watching the all-important football game. Because no, drinking beer does not count toward the Itadakimasu.
My kids like to say it, maybe less as act of appreciation and more as a means of letting on that they too, participated in the Itadakimasu. I set the table, my daughter might say. I cut the green beans and made the salad, my son once chimed. It lets them know that, they too, are important in the giving of thanks.
Whatever you and your family say at your table, or don't say, I hope you have a happy thanksgiving.