Thursday, September 28, 2006
Dinnertime musings without the TV
Like many folks who live by themselves, I find it easy to plop down in front of the television to eat my dinner. Usually the evening news supplies the conversation. The other day, however, I had cooked a supper that really needed to be eaten at the table, lest I risk spilling peas and beets all over my freshly-ironed shirt.
Finding myself at the relative formality of my kitchen table, the thought occurred that I might begin my dinner with the oft-neglected custom of a blessing for my meal. I will confess that saying a blessing often seems to me odd if I am alone — akin somewhat to talking to oneself.
Nevertheless, remembering that since my grandmothers thought eating an unblessed meal would surely result in ptomaine, or worse, I bowed my head and “thought” my prayer of thanksgiving.
The old words I learned as a child came automatically to mind — “bless the hands that prepared this food, and make us mindful of the wants and needs of others.” Since all I had done was heat leftovers in the microwave, I certainly did not need or deserve a blessing — so without a blaring television to disturb my musing, my mind went to the people who had harvested these vegetables and put them into cans and transported them to the store where they came into my possession.
Then it occurred to me that blessing for “the hands that prepared” my food is linked to my being “mindful of the wants and needs of others.” Those agricultural workers likely make only the minimum wage. I wonder how many reading these words would like to live on $5.15 an hour. Could you get by on $206 a week?
The minimum wage has not been raised in many years. In fact Congress has raised its own pay several times since it increased the minimum wage. The issue was deliberated in this session, but a raise in the minimum wage was linked with a tax cut for the rich — making sure that partisans for each cause would run for cover. Do you sense the cynicism with which many legislators are approaching their work just now?
Some people say the government has no business setting minimums for people’s wages and they quote the Bible for their point. Fine. But surely those who claim religion as their guide will recognize a personal obligation to reward a laborer’s effort and to work to make sure that all God’s children have enough.
Indeed, if we subscribe to our Lord’s “do unto others” we would not settle for merely a “minimum wage.” Part of the “culture wars” ought to be the possibility of fair incomes for all who want to work.
I am amused by the thought of what happened when the governing body for Richmond, Virginia’s Presbyterians debated establishing a maximum salary to go beside the long-held minimum for the area’s pastors. Oh, my, the tall-steeple boys howled at that one! “Socialism,” they cried. But the idea was that it should be voluntary! Well, you can’t compel people to be generous, can you?
As people of faith, God calls us to treat other people not only fairly, but in a spirit of love. Getting by with the least and the lowest in our expenditures and our wages is not the worthiest of spiritual goals. We are not only the richest but the most religious nation (in terms of active membership in houses of God) on earth. But Jesus says a society is judged by the way it treats its least and most vulnerable.
“Yes, Lord,” I did the minimum. Is that that the way I want to be remembered? Our prayers ought to move us to action, and that is why I wrote these words. To remind myself.
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