I’m remembering a day I prayed in a
public school. It wasn’t the first time,
of course. I can remember praying
fervently to remember the periodic chart of the elements!! But this was a little different, because I wasn’t sending up a 911 call to God. Over at Big Red Dog Elementary School, the third graders were having a Thanksgiving Feast. The Feast has been a third-grade tradition for many years. Mrs. C, who was once Snowman’s teacher and retired recently, used to host it in her classroom.
She was a marvel of organization. Desks and borrowed chairs were arranged in such a way to allow 55 children each to have a seat. When The Princess was in third grade, I volunteered to help and was stationed at the drink table. The buffet was impressive; each child had signed up to bring something, and I was very
thankful that The Then Little Princess had chosen cherry tomatoes rather than turkey!
As we were finishing the set-up of the buffet, one of the other moms mentioned
that I was a professional pray-er. For a moment I wondered whether I would be asked to pray—and if so, what I would
say—and then remembered why I wouldn’t be asked. After the children were all seated, Mrs.
C laid out the rules of the meal:
be polite to others,
no one eats
until everyone has a plate,
take one cup and get it refilled,
and finally, you
may go back as many times as you want!
And then it came, that moment that for me is always so thrilling at the
beginning of a Thanksgiving meal, that pause before we pass into gluttony, the
moment when, at our house, we would pray.
C was great, I thought. She told
the children we would have a little time of silence, in which we would close
our eyes and think of the things we are thankful for, and she gave some
We are thankful for our school
and our families.
We are thankful to
live in the greatest country in the world, the United States of America.
We live in this beautiful state of Maine.
She mentioned the Pilgrims and their
journey hear in search of freedom of worship.
And then, because she is always on schedule, Mrs. C gave us “about
45 seconds” of silence to reflect.
Thankfulness for living in this country is not something to be taken
lightly in a classroom filled with children of all colors, some of whom have
lived here only a few years, coming from Sudan and Somalia and Ethiopia,
from Vietnam and Cambodia, from Eastern Europe.
And now, we interrupt our regularly
We get on planes,
and trains, or into our cars and we travel as far as it takes to be with those
we love. It’s our busiest travel week of
the year in this country, even above Christmas. We change our routines, and we take a moment or a day to revel in all
the bounty of our lives. And if we
believe that all good gifts around us come from heaven above, we stop and take
a moment, at least 45 seconds or so, to say thank you to God.
So I must admit that at school that day I didn’t just reflect. I prayed. I was giving thanks that The Then Little Princess was finally having a good year in school, after a very rough start to her elementary education.
And I had another prayer, too. It was my prayer that someday we might all be able to pray, in our own ways, next to each other, thanking our God in the name familiar to us, whatever that might be. I don’t mean that it needs to happen in school. But I believe it needs to happen in the world. And perhaps that group of children, eyes closed and elbow to elbow around those long tables, will live together differently, thankful for their similarities and for their differences, for the rich banquet life could be for all of us if we could think for a moment about all the good things around us, and stop to say thank you.