I have begun to develop a practice. When eating alone I use my time of “saying grace” to become more conscious of where my food is coming from; and to use that as a channel for blessing the earth and other people.
We have become so disconnected from the source of our food, which is first and foremost our Creator and Provider. It is also the earth and its generosity of bounty. What if we gave thought to the earth as a living entity? What a generous giving being the earth is to us, she provides what we need to stay alive. What do I give to her in return?
When our food came from the land we lived on it was easier to see how our relationship was going. If we did not properly care for her she had a very hard time caring for us and our needs. But now I have absolutely no idea where most of my food comes from, except for occasional trips to a farmer’s market, a small garden in my yard or a tomato plant on my balcony.
I can make a start at giving back to the earth by giving her my awareness and then my thanks.
I look at my bowl of oatmeal and I see oats, walnuts, dried cranberries, some cinnamon, a bit of raw sugar and a splash of almond milk. Usually the most thought I give to my food is how to pay for it and perhaps whether or not it is healthy for me. But in this case I start to think of the earth and those fields of oats, the sunshine falling upon them in the early morning, the ground damp from a nourishing rain that fell during the night. I think of the insects that were generous enough to pollinate the almond trees and the worms that live underground to keep the soil healthy and alive. I think of the cranberry bog and the sugar cane and even the cinnamon plant. And I imagine the source of water that is part of the almond milk. I say thank you to the ground, the sun, the rain, the insects and the plants. There is life in them. I might forget that until I see a dead plant. How can something die unless it was first alive? And so I eat this gift of life that these plants are for my life, and I say thank you — to all of it. I begin to feel connected, so connected, to earth and plants, water and insects, that may be from the other side of the earth.
I begin to think of how this food arrived in my bowl. I think of the farmer who owns the land and his trials and I pray for him. I think of the migrant worker toiling underneath a blistering sun in a sugar cane field and her struggles. She is far from her home, wondering how to care for her family. Wondering whether or not she will have health care to help her when she is sick or injured. I begin to think of all the people and systems it took just to get this one simple bowl of oatmeal onto my table. I am overwhelmed with how dependent I have become. I think of the tractor that someone had to design, build, sell, transport and operate. There is the truck that drove the food from the field to the factory — its driver, the gasoline in its tank, all of the people who manufactured the truck. I think of the workers in the factory, processing and packing the oats and walnuts, the cranberries and cinnamon. I think of their individual lives and concerns, their needs for housing, love and a future for their children. I bless them.
I think of the young woman in New York City, designing the logo on the bottle of almond milk, and the salesperson who sold it to the grocery store. There are the people in the warehouses who distribute it and the store clerk who stocks the shelves and the cashier at the checkout counter. How are they? Are they well and happy? Are they suffering? Are their loved ones ok? Are they lonely and need a smile? I pray for them. I ask God to care for them and their loved ones and to bless them.
And I eat my bowl of oats with a heart full of blessing, love and gratitude. I eat my breakfast feeling my connection with so many, many people. I swallow my food with a deeper appreciation for the earth and her creatures and my fellow humans. I feel what it means to be alive and part of God’s world.
I feel overwhelmed with the world we have created and how complicated we have made it. I see how I have become detached from the world as God created it. I now live in a world where instead of planting and harvesting food just outside my door, it can take hundreds of people just to have a simple bowl of food on my table.
And I think, I pray, “What can I do today to begin to connect to and care for God’s creation?”