Each Grain of Rice

Each Grain of Rice

handful-of-rice square

From the Rev. Timothy Hannon, vicar of St. James, Coquille

The autumnal equinox was this past Saturday, the 22nd of September, and with it we enter into the glorious season of autumn.  We’re in a time of harvest, of growing coldness and darkness, but also of thanksgiving.  This past week the Church observed its Ember Days, times of fast and prayer in thanksgiving for the fruits (and veggies) of the earth, and, as you will hear this Saturday, Michaelmas has roots in medieval celebrations of nature.  This turn from summer to autumn is a good time to remember how precious the earth is, and how much we rely on the natural world (from plants to animals to weather) and on the farmers who grow and deliver our food.

This sense of thanksgiving was made real to me while teaching in Japan.  Each day I ate lunch with the other teachers.  We all ate the same lunch as the students, and it was all classically Japanese: tofu and fish and rice.  Some of it was strange to my American palate, so I often left some dishes unfinished.

Once, my supervisor noticed that I did not finish my rice.  He pressed me, and I (not wanting to be rude) finished the bowl.  Or so I thought.  My supervisor looked over and shook his head.  “Eat every grain, Tim.”  I laughed, thinking he was joking, but he shook his head again.  “No, Tim, we Japanese eat every grain of rice in our bowls, and we teach our children to do the same.  We remember the war [World War II] and the food shortages.  We must remember to be thankful for each grain of rice.”

I was, and still am, amazed.  Even after sixty or seventy years, this lesson of thanksgiving was still present in the way they eat.  The Old Testament tells of similar dedication to the land and the fruits of the earth.  God is an abundant giver, and so let us take this time to give thanks for those gifts, even to the very grains of rice in our lives.