Thanksgiving has always been a big ordeal for my family, second only to Christmas: lots of family and lots of food. In recent years, I’ve begun to feel a little uneasy with this arrangement. While we are eating our huge Thanksgiving feast, likely encroaching on the sin of gluttony, there are 925 million hungry people in our world – this world that Christ has called us to reach, both spiritually and physically (whatever you do for the least of these…).
Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes. Sixteen thousand! Find a clock. Watch five seconds go by. In that amount of time, someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, has died because they didn’t have access to the nutrition they needed. Every five seconds. Think about it this way: while you (and I) sit on the couch watching an hour-long television show, over 700 children will die. This truth is astonishing, and it is heartbreaking.
Yet so often we forget, we push it to the back of our minds, and we rest and grow complacent in our affluent bubble. Is it because it’s so far away? (which isn’t true, there is hunger in each of our cities) Because they are just numbers and we don’t see the faces, know their stories? Or maybe we’re just lazy and occupied with our own self-satisfaction?
I could go on to make the point that we should do something, we ought to do something about this global problem. I could argue for the vital importance of ending world hunger. I could remind us that as Christians we aren’t called to comfortable, selfish lives. I could do all that, but I’m not going to. Instead, I have a question to ask:
Are we truly thankful for what we have?
I had a professor in college who told us for a while he stopped praying before he ate, because he wasn’t sure if he was truly thankful. After all, that is the prayer most of us pray before meals: “thank you God for the food…” But if I’m honest with myself, these have become just words to me: words that I say out of tradition more than any true thankfulness.
It’s hard, I find, to be truly thankful in the midst of such abundance where I truly have no needs. Of course I’m going to eat today. Where my next meal is coming from, or even if I’m going to be eating, isn’t a real question for me. I think because of that, we often take what we have for granted, and when that happens, true thankfulness is hard to come by. Can there be light without darkness? How would we know light, if we did not also know darkness? In the same way, can there be thanksgiving without want or need? How can we know what it is to be thankful, if we do not also know what it is to need?
As we are in this holiday season, which is filled with family, food and gifts, my prayer is that you and I can remember to be truly thankful for everything we have and all the ways in which God has blessed us.
I want to be truly thankful for every meal I eat.