We recently went to a water park lodge in Niagara Falls, Ontario. There were hundreds of small children bouncing around the place, like balls in a pin-ball machine, having the time of their lives. I now have some appreciation for the reasons behind Tennessee Williams calling them "No -neck monsters." Parents were in tow, on the lookout for possible threats to their vacation, and making certain that this exceedingly costly holiday turned out to be a success, and that a good time was had by all.
Part of that success depended on the depth of mom and dad's wallet because a large part of the complex was devoted to rampant consumerism. The stores were loaded with plastic merchandise, and the arcade bekoned with its bells, whistles and chimes, and of course the expensive prizes which took thousands upon thousands of tickets to buy.
My wife and I went through all the motions with our seven-year-old grandson. He was so excited in the stores that he almost hyperventilated. It was obvious that he was having trouble choosing, and choice, as we all know, is one of the major contributors to our country's anxiety.
When it came time to eat lunch, we were confronted with the same overwhelming rush to satiate the appetite. Kids were running from the sausages to the french fries and then back over to the pizzas and the finger foods. Some of them had plates piled so high that it was little wonder some came tumbling to the floor, with the prerequisite cheers. I wonder whether they would cheer in the Third World. Parents were running helter skelter, trying to keep up with the kids, and everybody looked as if he/she was worried the food might run out at any time.
When we finally got to our bench and sat down, we got everything placed and ordered our drinks, and then we took a breather. Our grandson had become accustomed to this practice, and as I surveyed the place, it struck me that most of the people had begun chowing down. It looked like one of those food contests in which the contestants have to wolf down as many hot dogs as possible within five minutes. It reminded me of the hard boiled egg contest in the film "Cool hand Luke" in which the convicts shove as many eggs down Luke's gullet as possible before the time limit is called.
We then made the Sign of the Cross, and said our Grace out loud with our heads bowed and our hands clasped. I did not look around to see whether anyone might be watching us, but that is not the point. We were thanking God for the food which he had provided for us, and for the farmers who had grown it. We were taking the time to settle down and acknowledge our dependence on God and our appreciation for what we were being given.
Our grandson was hungry, but he had taken the time to show his realization that the food he was about to enjoy should not be taken for granted. It is this humility and appreciation which is lacking in contemporary society, and which should be formed at the family level. It is up to the parents to take the time to teach the children how to say Grace. Only then will people appreciate the calm which they are experiencing and the gratefulness which wells up from their hearts.
A consumer society runs from one thing to the next in a race to satisfy an appetite which is insatiable. This is the nature of man. That includes the food we eat and the way we eat it. Saying Grace is the best way to avoid overlooking the fact that we could just as well be lying in a gutter somewhere with starvation staring us in the face as at a table overflowing with so many choices. Many people do not even know the origin of the abundance of food which they are so eager to devour.
Saying Grace brings us home to the reality of our mortality and the sacredness of our sustenance.
Saying Grace takes that greedy, "Big Mac anxiety attack" look off our faces.
Saying Grace calms the angst-riddled cafeteria and muffles the chomping hords.