When I was a young boy I remember working very hard in the fields everyday growing and collecting the crops. Each and every morning I would walk to the fields with my grandfather. The first thing he would have me do was walk to a sacred shrine to give offerings to the spirits of the plants and our grandfathers and make prayers. Sometimes I would still be very tired from the previous day of working and would not want to make the journey to the shrine.
On one particular day I whined about the extra walk and said to my grandfather that we should just head out to the fields and start working. He looked down at me with outrage written across his face, and I awaited the worst. He begin to speak to me at first yelling and then he calmed down. He said "What do you mean we should skip the prayers and offering at the shrine grandson?" I was very scared and backed up a little bit and felt immediately ashamed. I said to him bashfully " Well grandfather couldn't we just make extra prayers tomorrow and skip today? It is a long walk and I am tired." He said to me,
"Grandson we never skip a day of showing gratitude and respect, because if we did it would become another and another. We are taking from the earth so we must give back. We must never forget to show proper respect to the spirits of the plant people and to the creator. When we gather the corn we never walk over it when we have placed it in piles, because to do that would be very disrespectful. The women do not walk or cross over any of the crops as well, for they know that it would be a dishonor to the spirits."
"Our reverence for this balance with the Earth, and the medicine that the plant and animals give us is why we honor them at every meal. It is why we set aside a plate for them to partake of first before we eat. In the North, and even in many of the cities here, people have forgotten to be grateful for their food. They have become disconnected from the food in such a way that they do not have relationship to it anymore at all. Their food sits around and it is not fresh. It is processed and manipulated so it has lost a lot of its medicine and healing properties. When the food is not respected it does not keep us healthy. It is what happens when we forget to be mindful that food is also medicine and powerful. We are not the master over food it is our master. It is a caretaker of our very lives, therefore we must respect it and be thankful to it everyday, not just when it is convenient. Do you understand grandson?"
I looked up at him and nodded my head and I promised that I would not forget why our prayers and offerings were so important.