Wednesday, November 27, 2013

on gratitude

I'm sitting in a local coffee shop on the North Side as the snow that started overnight keeps falling (#gobblegeddon is the best hashtag I've seen so far), watching out the window and listening to people come in and out. Most of them are grumbling about the weather, even though most of them have probably lived in western Pennsylvania for their entire lives and shouldn't be surprised that in winter, it snows.

Even with the holidays approaching, as a people, we like to grumble. When pressed around the Thanksgiving table, we'll say "Yes, I'm thankful for my family and friends and job and a roof over my head." Meaning it, yes. But it feels rote - like we've all listed those things off a million times. But how many times do we move beyond what we're "thankful for" and really dwell on gratitude? I can list off a million things I am thankful for - like getting enough of a cell signal at my desk to listen to Pandora or the Americano I am currently drinking. But for what am I truly grateful?

I could probably reflect and write on gratitude for thousands of words. I am truly blessed in so many ways. But something in particular is nagging in my mind, especially as Thanksgiving approaches tomorrow - the profound gratitude that I feel knowing that I have no doubts about where my next meal is coming from.

Last week, the news was buzzing about a viral photo that showed a holiday food drive that was happening for employees at a Wal-mart near where I went to college in Ohio. This brought up the debate about a living wage for retail and restaurant workers - and rightfully so. But to distill it to just a fight about wages obscures the fact that there are probably workers at that store who wouldn't have a Thanksgiving dinner without that food drive. And there are people across America who will go to bed hungry tonight. 

There are many food drives at this time of year, and supporting food banks is really important. But I don't think that people will truly understand the scope or the severity of the need in this country unless we begin to be truly grateful for what is on our tables and appreciating its value. 

When a child doesn't want to eat something at dinner, parents will say "Do you know there are hungry children in Africa that would love to eat that?" That's true, but there are hungry children next door, too. In our own neighborhoods. 

As I enter the abundance of the holidays - elaborate meals and baked goods, presents and parties - I want to remain profoundly grateful for the gift of a full stomach and do my part to fill some more.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone.  

For more information:
(Nationally) Feeding America
(Locally) Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank  

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