I don’t know how many times I have looked at the picture that my mother had hung in our kitchen, probably thousands over the years. I am sure most of you know the picture because it may have been hanging in your kitchen when you were a child. For that matter, you may have it in your kitchen now. The title of the picture is “Grace.” I googled the title and came up with this note:
“Grace is a 1918 photograph by Eric Enstrom. It depicts an elderly man, Charles Wilden, with hands folded, saying a prayer over a table with a simple meal. It was taken in Bovey, Minnesota. Originally black-and-white, the photo was colorized by hand by Enstrom’s daughter, Rhoda Nyberg. It was this colorized version that attained widespread distribution.”
I knew that a similar picture hung in my grandparents’ kitchen. Interestingly enough, I do not ever remember having a conversation about the painting, it was just always there. And yet, it influenced me. My perceptions of what was supposed to happen before a meal were molded by that image, and it has subsequently influenced pre-meal prayers for my own children.
It is this kind of ritual or icon that Dr. Jamie K. Smith spoke about at the Christian Schools Canada Conference a few weeks back. Dr. Smith’s keynote address emphasized the importance of rituals in faith formation. In recent years many of us have moved away from some of the “traditions” of church and home. Dr. Smith argues that, while un-evaluated rituals are problematic, it is through some intentionally thought-out practices that we connect most deeply with our faith. Dr. Smith said of the things that surround us each day, “We think we do things, but really, these things do something to us.”
It is for similar reasons that we are posting our school’s mission statement in every classroom as well as in the front entrance to each campus. “Engaging minds, nurturing hearts, and shaping God’s world” needs to be part of who we are and what we do every day here at ACS. It needs to influence what we do in the same way the picture “Grace” influenced me by being there on the kitchen wall.
That painting still hangs in my parents’ kitchen and seeing it there on my last visit inspired this post. Mom and Dad, thank you, and I love you! You have instilled habits of faith that I am forever grateful for. May our children say the same of us when they are old.