Evening has come,
the board is spread,
thanks be to God,
who gives us bread.
Dear Gilman Family,
This popular mealtime grace was part of the regular rotation at the summer camp I attended as a camper and counselor in the 1970s and 80s. Over the course of my nine years there, I sang this song with my fellow campmates countless times, sometimes substituting “morning” or “noontime” for “evening,” as appropriate. No one ever taught us the words to the blessings so, even with the frequent renditions, it took most of us a year or two to learn that it was “board” and not “Lord” that was spread. It took me even longer to figure out that a spread board referred to the bounteous meal that was in front of us and for which we were giving thanks. (At some point, the term “room and board” must have helped me connect the dots!)
However long it took me to understand the song, I look back at those moments with great fondness and appreciation. For one, while I am not sure my 10-year-old self actually liked the camp food, it was—and still is—good to take time to recognize and to give thanks for what we have been afforded. Second, I do know that I loved mealtime at camp. It was always just so much fun to be together, at the table and as a whole camp community. Through the blessing, the (less reverent) chants, and the serving and clearing rituals, we bonded over our shared experiences and values at camp. Those moments of togetherness, in and of themselves, were a gift and a blessing.
Indeed, whether literal or figurative, the board is spread here at Gilman. In the classroom, on the field, and in the studio, what a menu of opportunities our boys have in front of them! These opportunities allow the boys to develop the skills, knowledge, exposure, and perspective that make them more complete people. What’s more, our shared experiences—as classmates, teammates, and schoolmates—along with our common values, articulated in the Gilman 5, bring us together. These opportunities and these moments of togetherness are things to cherish.
As we break at the height of the holiday season, my hope for all of us is that we might be able to reflect on that which we are afforded, as well as on those things that unite us, here at Gilman and beyond. May you also enjoy time together with those who help to bring you joy and make you whole.
Henry P. A. Smyth
PS: Go Ravens!