7 Poems To Read At Thanksgiving Dinner To Remind You Of Everything Good In The World

For many of us, the holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving dinner, usher in a time of year when life gets a little different... and, um, no, I don't just mean more stressful. Everything is more deliberate at the holidays: there's special food and special dinnerware to eat that food on, there are decorations and music and traditions. Of course, there's also the practice of saying Grace

I haven't known many daily Grace-sayers, though, to be honest, all religiosity aside, I think the practice is nice. There's something sustaining about taking a moment with your table-mates, before the forks and knives are clattering, before the bottle of wine is fully drunk. Grace — and I'm really thinking nondenominationally here, a sort of universal and DIY bon appetit — is centering and powerful. Frankly, it can set a tone for a meal: sincere, reverent, silly, facetious. 

That said, Thanksgiving has a tendency to bring out Grace like Black Friday calling your credit cards. And there's nothing worse than being caught unprepared, that moment when an oblivious relative turns to you and says, "Why don't you say a few words?" Erm ...

Thankfully, these poems do the heavy-lifting for you. All you have to do is encourage your family to bow their heads and maybe — just maybe — hold hands.

1. "Lift Ev'ry Voice And Sing" by James Weldon Johnson

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Out from the gloomy past,   
Till now we stand at last 
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast. 

2. "The Thanksgivings" by Harriet Maxwell Converse

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We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products
          to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs
          for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.

3. "The Gift Outright" by Robert Frost

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The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

4. "Long, Too Long America" by Walt Whitman

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Long, too long America,
Traveling roads all even and peaceful you learn'd from joys and prosperity only,
But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish, advancing, grappling with direst fate and recoiling not,

5. "When Giving Is All We Have" by Alberto Rios

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Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again

6. "Perhaps The World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo

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The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat
to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

7. "Grace For A Child" by Robert Herrick

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Here, a little child I stand,
Heaving up my either hand:
Cold as paddocks though they be,
Here I lift them up to Thee,
For a benison to fall
On our meat, and on us all. Amen.

Images: Aaron Burden/Unsplash; Giphy (7)

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