Burger and fries mentality

Thursday, January 31, 2002

McDonald's is the largest owner of retail property on earth. The Golden Arches around the world are recognized by more people than is Christianity's crosses.

This observation is made by Eric Schlosser in his book titled, "Fast Food Nation."

The book evaluates America's fast-food lifestyle. In a couple of areas it is critical of the industry, its menu lacks foods needed for a healthy diet and

its employment practice of

paying bottom of the scale wages with few job benefits leaves much to be desired. Its pluses have made America a "Fast-Food Nation." Its ability to offer accessibility has made it a winner.

In recent years, fast-food fans have criticized their restaurants for being too slow in delivering their fast food to customers. The industry responded with drive through lanes with numerous advantages. Now one can order food, pick it up and pay for it without leaving the car. It can be eaten, sometimes dangerously while driving to the next meeting or continuing a highway trip. Children can gulp it down while being transported by parents from band practice to swimming lessons or ball practices to catechism class at the church.

Some of us have a growing concern about what our nation's love of fast food is doing to an institution which helped make American great and its family life strong. What has happened to the old fashioned dining room with its dining room table offering food, fellowship and opportunity to express one's faith with the saying of "Grace" before eating?

My hope is a recent celebration of my 91st birthday gives me permission to share my memories of family life in pre-fast food days. I was unfortunate and fortunate three weeks after my birth: unfortunate - I lost my mother; fortunate - a grandfather and grandmother urged my distraught father to move in with them and they would help him raise me.

As a youngster, I learned my first prayers at their dining room table and on my knees with grandmother beside me at my bed. I will never forget the framed motto hanging on the wall in their dining room; it graced many dining rooms in those days. Its beautiful message: "God is an unseen guest at this table and in this house." This became more apparent to me as those childhood years passed by.

After the evening "chores" were completed and the cows milked we had dinner. No food was touched before "Grace" was said. The goodness of grandmother's food and the togetherness of family were a double blessing. When we finished eating we would kneel beside our chairs while grandfather offered up a thank-you prayer for the food and other blessings of the day, then he would read a few verses from the Bible grandmother always had waiting beside his plate. This was the highlight of each day. It was widely practiced by families 80 to 90 years ago. Our nation has lost something very precious and we are hurting as a result. The family table served as the alter for what we called "Family Worship."

This has been replaced by eat-in kitchens, or family rooms where youngsters can belly-flop on the floor with food ahead of them, remote control in hand, TV on, signaling "No Talking." The family dinner table with

its family talk time and acknowledgment of God time is now an "endangered species."

Today's popular fast food and two wage-earner families which take mothers out of the family setting to work in the market place challenge the family dinner table's survival. Both need to be carefully and prayerfully evaluated if the blessings of father, mother and children putting their feet under the same table at the same time is desired. God Bless.

Clarence C. Richardson is a retired Storm Lake pastor and a Pilot-Tribune contributor.