We’re spoon fed at the start and at the finish, if justice and mercy have any say in the way the world turns. Human life requires feeding in its beginning and to its end. Somebody has to feed us or we wouldn’t be here. To be spoon fed should be celebrated but it’s a sign of vulnerability. It means we’re either too young or too infirm to feed ourselves, and yet a spoon is a revelation of a holy human relationship. To stretch out a spoon is to extend a table of hospitality in God’s name, and in my household of faith, for Christ’s sake. Good spoon work requires remembering how we’ve been fed and blessing the hands that have fed us by feeding others. Memorial and thanksgiving form the centerpiece in this table of sacramental life. We need help, however, in our table manners. We need daily reminders of how to say grace.
We also need lessons on how to bless, not bite the hand that feeds us. My best teacher of table manners was my mother’s mother, Flora. At the age of 106, she’d moved from feeding to being fed. She’s been the daily bread source of our young lives. She cooked plain, not fancy, until her late 80s. She moved from the stove to setting the table in her 90s.
I’ve framed her final lesson. My older sister’s kitchen is filled with the noisy sounds and smells of a 3-generation thanksgiving dinner. My oldest sister, Sandy Lee Mace, inherited our grandma’s care and cooking DNA. Brucilla Campbell, my younger sister adds the global and gourmet sense to dining. Wilson Cloudchamber, youngest of the Murray girls, is a true believer in organic life.
I’m missing all of the above, so I do as I’m told: feed Grandma. Turkey is now beyond Grandma’s ability or interest. Long after other tastes have departed, the sense of bitter and sweet remains, so she’s having desert. I spoon feed her ice cream, my attention elsewhere, until she stops the spoon. She traces the spoon to my fingers, then kisses my hand. She then returns to the ice cream.
A gesture of gratitude. To kiss the hand that feeds you. To feed others as you have been fed-with a grateful heart. This is what Thanksgiving means. This is Eucharist. We are spoon fed, start to finish.
We are stirred by a sense
as common as spoons.
We are capable
of cupping God.
So be it.
We believe in the destiny of dining.
We ladle grace like gravy
over the bread of life.
In a hard-to-handle time
we are good at getting to the bottom,
gripped in Necessity’s hand.
We invent perpetual motion
from a rounded shape
and a hungry sound.
Few if any
are born to the taste of silver.
Most acquire stainless steel.
We inspect tear spots.
and expect tarnish.
We polish tea spoons
and offer sympathy
with just a trace of acid.
Let others sharpen their wits,
pare away distinctions,
separate the jointedness of time.
We are spoon fed, start to finish.
Stir, lift, and blend mercy
Let us be good and godly as spoons.
[i] Heather Murray Elkins © 1987, revised 2005. Worshiping Women (Abingdon), 1995. All rights reserved.