Allow me to preface this post by stating that I am not trying to start a discussion of religion, or to endorse or oppose anyone's religious beliefs or lack thereof. CHers beliefs are none of my business, and I don't think it's appropriate to discuss them here.
That said, I grew up in a fairly religious family, but we never said grace. I married a man whose family always said grace, and I adopted the practice with him. I've drifted away from religious practices, but I don't want to stop saying grace. Grace is a dignified way to start a meal, better than everyone just digging in. I also believe that appreciating what one has is more conducive to happiness than taking it for granted or always grasping for more.
So, my question is: has anyone adopted a secular form of grace, or does anyone have suggestions on creating one? Certainly, it should include an expression of thanks to the persons who farmed or gardened,bought, prepared, and served the food. Other elements could include a general expression of thanks for the availability of food and a commitment to helping the less fortunate. Any other ideas?
Let me preface my response by saying that I am a Christian and a secular grace is outside my area of expertise, but I've seen this done. My husband is an atheist, and while the rest of us are praying silently or out loud giving thanks, he just sits there with his hands slightly raised, palms up. This is his silent way of accepting the gift of delicious (or, in the case of tonight's dinner, not so delicious) food in gratitude to the farmers and the cook (me.).
Whether you are a believer or not, simply sitting in silence before a meal is a nice way to show your appreciation of it, the people who made it, and the people who grew or raised the food you are about to consume. I wish more people thought of this the way you have.
I hope this helps. Its the buddhist meal chant we use at zen retreats and whenever we are asked to do as you are asked and i also use it at home. its always good to remember the long path, the sacrifices and the many hands that brought this meal before us.
A Buddhist blessing for food
"This food is the gift of the whole universe,
Each morsel is a sacrifice of life,
May I be worthy to receive it.
May the energy in this food,
Give me the strength,
To transform my unwholesome qualities
into wholesome ones.
I am grateful for this food,
May I realise the Path of Awakening,
For the sake of all beings."
This is what I (a secularist) used with my Girl Scout troop for many years. It's the Shaker blessing.
'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free,
'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be.
And when we find ourselves in the place that's right,
We will be in the garden of love and delight.
Correction, it is a Shaker dance song. When it talks about "turn, turn, will be our delight" or "to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed", those are dance instructions.
Dancing was a type of worship for the Shakers, but they distinguished between the songs they used for dancing and hymns.
My brother has a good friend who did not get married until he was 48. This bachelor ate a lot of holiday meals at their house. After my brother's family were done saying grace, he would add his own prayer. It went like this:
"Thank you God for beer,
thank you God for deer,
thank you God for beer and deer."
(I realize it mentions God, but it otherwise sounds quite secular to me.)