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O.C. RELIGION | ON FAITH

Give Thanks For Hungers Satisfied

November 18, 2000|KATHLEEN LUBECK PETERSON

For two or three months of the year, Christian and his brothers would go fishing. It was not fly fishing. This line took greater skill to handle. It was about a mile long.

The boys attached thin, foot-long strings to the main line, spacing them at two-foot intervals. They tied 2,500 hooks to the secondary lines. Their mother helped them dig up the long worms burrowed deep in the white sandy beach, and the hooks were readied.

At night the brothers waded into the sea to set the line. They kept it in place by weighing it down with a rock every 200 feet. Pieces of board were attached as floats, marking the line's path.

The next morning before breakfast, the boys hauled in the line, and carted the catch home in a wheelbarrow. The family ate fish for those months.

Most other months, food was scarce.

Although Christian's family had a comfortable home and 40 acres of land in Denmark in the mid-1800s, the soil was poor and farming unprofitable.

Christian's mother would prepare school lunches for her children by dipping bread in water, sprinkling it with a little brown sugar, then grating the red residue of boiled whey on top.

Christian often wondered how it would feel to be full.

"And he took the five loaves, and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled."

--Matthew 14:19, 20

As a child living in Utah, my father looked forward to visiting his grandmother. Each morning she would cook Danish pastries for visiting neighbors and family. She'd ask him which sweet rolls he liked best. He got his pick.

His parents were not religious people, but on occasion sent their children to a local church for Sunday school. My father did not settle into religion as a child, but once told me how he envied his childhood friends whose families said a blessing on their food.

Hunger comes in many guises.

Dad eventually married a religious woman who said grace on the food. She taught her children to do the same. His plate has been full for many years now.

Christian Petersen emigrated to America, found work, a wife, and a home with the people of his faith. Though life was hard at times, his belief in God sustained him and his family. He knew what it was to be full.

We give and we receive. For these blessings, we give thanks to God.

For many of us in the United States, our table is well-spread. Perhaps that's why those who are religious say a blessing on their food at each meal, either aloud or silently. They remind themselves of what has been given, consecrate it to God, and give thanks.

To the people of the empty plate, a day of giving thanks can be a puzzle, spent trying to retrieve pieces of happiness that got lost, or were stolen, or were willfully left behind without understanding their true value. They hunger.

Their table is sometimes set for the lost child, for the prayer not said, for the grief that aches to be quenched. Some will not have a table to set. They need feeding.

I have friends and neighbors who feed others. One makes extra sandwiches for the homeless when she packs her children's lunches. Another converted her salary raise to food for the local children's shelter school. One friend established a service organization for children. Another organized a community effort to crochet blankets for homeless shelters.

In the shadows, they quietly go about their work of blessing others, dividing their gifts among unknown brothers or sisters. As our family gathers yearly around the Thanksgiving table, my father often says grace. He thanks God for family, for the bounty of food, and then blesses the food.

It's a sweet ritual that pulls us together, heavenward, mindful that we are not our own people. We are His. He feeds us. He has bought us. All that we have is a gift from Him. And we, following His example, must give the good gifts, too.

Kathleen Lubeck Peterson, an Irvine resident, is a former seminary teacher for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

On Faith is a forum for Orange County clergy and others to offer their views on religious topics of general interest. Submissions, which will be published at the discretion of The Times and are subject to editing, should be delivered to Orange County religion page editor William Lobdell.

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