Thursday, November 26, 2009

Grace and Turnip

As "The New Guy," I was asked to say Grace at Sheehan Thanksgiving dinner today. I delivered some boilerplate and then said we were all grateful to be here with family. (I almost said "friends," too, but remembered that little piece of gold on my finger; I guess I'm in.)

I stammered a bit and thought of the all-time best grace-giver, my friend Dave Grover, who can carry on without seeming either self-righteous or irreverent. This is notable because Grace is a strange moment--it's like a little speech, but on behalf of everyone. It can't be too specific or it seems like the gathered are being left out of a private conversation with God; but if it's too general, the Grace-giver is teased for repeating old standbys, for lacking feeling.

And then there's the question of archaisms. Dost thou use such language over turkey? Dost thou over manwich?

When I was in middle school our daily blessing was, "God bless this food to our use and our lives to thy loving service." I pulled that one out today to get the ball rolling, but what of the 'thy?' I suppose it's appropriate to add a little Puritan flavor to this particular feast. But I'd started with 'umm' and then moved on to my usual extemporaneousness: no thees there. How best to mix the heavy and the heartfelt?

Again, there's the need for gravitas, but how much? At a dinner with strict and not-so-strict Catholics, I didn't want to go over- or underboard.

Once, at a Thanksgiving during a time I was struggling, I'd dropped a scripture bomb: "I hope we can rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep." I've always liked that one, and it seems to be good for remembering (without being a total downer) those who aren't lucky enough to have four kinds of savory tubers on this special day; but I felt like I'd gone too far, like I'd been grandiloquent in front of the embarrassed turnip.

Today, I wanted to strike a similar note, though. Because we've got a sick family member over in these parts and only two moments of collective prayer left to go for this calendar year.

Some things must be remembered to the Big Thy Upstairs.

But I'm not really the one to comment on family business: I'm merely the interloper, the in-law. So I asked for blessings where they're especially needed and even where they're not. (Yeah, that wasn't so bad). My heart beat quickly all the way through my second helping (and then started beating quickly because of it!) But I'd given a B+ performance. And the benediction was delivered, hopefully to some good use.

I like to think we don't care over in these parts if the Grace comes stumbling and improvised, as long as it comes soon.


Joe said...

O Dave Grover, we ask thee to show thy face on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions

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