By Lauren Farley
Our family has never been the sort to say grace or hold hands and said “thank you” at dinner, but lately we’ve hit one something we love. Most dinner times now, we do a family version of a “Joys and Sorrows” ritual.
We got the idea from our Religious Exploration classroom group with the 1st and 2nd graders. There we pass a bowl of stones, everyone shares their name and a joy or sorrow on their mind or heart, then drops a stone into a bowl of water. We hear about all the “Big Important Things” in the lives of our little ones – playing with friends or going on a trip, missing a traveling parent or faraway relative, saying goodbye to pets, the anticipation and nervousness that comes with moving to a new house…
And the bowl gets snatched, and the water gets kicked over, and the stones get lobbed from waaaaay too far away. Because…. Children! At home, there are spills from diving over dinner, bickering about who goes first, hyper-focus on which random stone is JUST the right one, strange floaties in the water from grimy 7- and 5-year old fingers. It’s beautiful.
“I’m so excited to go trick-or-treating!”
“I got to spend time with coworkers that are normally in all different parts of the country, and today we all got to be together.”
“I’m happy for the snow.”
“We get to vote and choose new leaders tomorrow, and I’m so excited for that, but also really worried and nervous that the voters might make bad choices, and well I just don’t know how I feel today!”
“I’m sad that Grandpa Dick died lots of years ago.”
“It felt so good to spend time with our friends and neighbors at the party today.”
“I’m sad for the people in Pittsburgh that man hurt.”
“I still have this awful cold and I’m frustrated and grumpy and I’ve been snapping at everyone. I’m sorry.”
“I’m so proud of your hard work at the Food Bank today.”
“My joy is mama hugs!” (I’m pretty sure the 5-year-old was just angling for extra Halloween candy with that last one.)
Then just one more stone, for all the joys and sorrows left unspoken. I asked my 7-year-old why he likes this and he said, “because we get to say how we feel.” Why is that important? “Because we don’t have zippers on our heads that you can open and see inside, so how else would you know?” My kids call it “Prayer Bowl.”
And there it is. Our feelings matter. We don’t have to know how we feel. Our feelings are safe here. I’m safe here. There is much to be grateful for in the gorgeous and startling way that children are so good at seeing straight into the heart of something their grownups think is beyond them.
May your family find just the right ritual for you to share feelings, gratitude and moments of grace.