Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Day

So yesterday, here in the United States, it was Thanksgiving Day. The origins of the holiday are a bit murky, but it is generally agreed that it began with small band of European immigrants who were barely scratching out an existence on the rocky shores of Massachusetts in the 17th century. These, "colonists" threw a harvest feast and it was attended by a number of Native Americans who provided much, if not most, of the food. This was during a brief period of time during which Native Americans actually thought the Europeans were a small and stupid lot and were to be pitied rather than feared and hated. It didn't take long for them to figure out the reality of the situation.

During the American Civil War Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, declared the fourth Thursday of November to be a national day of thanks giving. Many of the Federal forces exercised a cease fire on the day and it was recognized by at least some of the confederate armies squared off against them. Of course by then the rebels were, thanks to massive casualties, dramatically shrinking in number so any day that would stop the bleeding, even for a few hours, probably seemed like a good idea to their commanders.

As with all things the day evolved and by the 20th and 21st centuries it became the day that kicked off the frenzied Christmas shopping season. A great feast would be enjoyed with the family, football would be watched, then all hell would break loose in department stores nation wide for the next month.

It was certainly that sort of day around here yesterday for us. Before it was over three kids, one fiance, and two grandparents were in attendance. We gorged ourselves on roasted fowl, corn, a casserole of seasoned bread crumbs, celery, onion, herbs, and chicken broth known either as dressing, or stuffing; brown and serve rolls, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple pie and whipped cream. A moderate amount of wine and beer was consumed. After it was done everyone went home with full bellies and slept soundly. Well at least I did.

Of course things aren't nearly as cushy as our crowded apartment was yesterday for vast numbers of people on this blue ball we call earth. The World Bank estimates in Asia, Africa, and parts of Latin America 500 million people live in "absolute poverty." That 15 million children die every year of hunger. That one third of the world is under fed and and another third is starving.

UNICEF estimates that 1.3 billion human beings live on less than $1 U.S. per day and that 3 billion exist on less than $2 per day. They also believe around 24,000 people die of hunger, or hunger related diseases every day. That is pretty simple math. I usually take about two hours to write and edit a post. That means while I'm typing and correcting what I've written, 2,000 will have perished from the face of the planet because they didn't have enough to eat.

Well, as Judge Smails said in the movie "Caddy Shack," "The world needs ditch diggers too." Besides those are places far, far away from the north side of Oklahoma City and people none of us know.

Unfortunately that isn't entirely true. The Oklahoma Food Bank web site says this state ranks 7th in the number of people per capita who are hungry. That 13% of Oklahoma's population is "food insecure." It also says that of the elderly clients it serves, 32% report they have to choose between medicines, or medical care and food. The Families Feed Families web site says 54% of children enrolled in Oklahoma public schools qualify for reduced cost or free lunches. Other sources say the figure is 59%. In the Oklahoma City school district alone 83.5% of the students qualify for free or reduced cost lunches. It is estimated that 13% of the elderly here are at, or below the poverty rate.

Yes, for some of us, as Dickens said, "it is the best of times," but for billions of others of our species "it is the worst of times."

I have several friends, close ones, who criticize me for being too negative, for always pointing out what is wrong rather than what is right with this nation and world. They are probably correct. I mean I could have spent all this time talking about what a perfect Norman Rockwell scene it was at our's and tens of thousands of other places yesterday. However, given the numbers, it is really too easy to remind some of us that everything isn't so peachy either locally, or abroad. I'd like for it to be hard. I want it to be hard, but the despair is too wide spread and deep to utterly ignore it. It won't just go away if we don't think about it. It won't stop from happening unless we do something about it.

Do I have that answer? Nope. I'm not even close to having one.

It is a small planet though. The devil isn't that far away from any of our doorsteps. That is something all of us might keep in mind. Most of us have worked hard to achieve what we have and enjoy, but thousands of millions never even got a chance to succeed. They were, in essence, shot down on take off. It is tough to concentrate on learning anything when your stomach is shrinking to the size of a prune and the flies swarm all over your baby brother.

In the end John Donne said it the best. He wrote, "No man is an Island of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away to sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Think about it while you enjoy your leftover turkey and all the fixin's. If for just a second, think about it.


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