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Giving thanks

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As the great feasting holiday approaches, people often start to think just what to give thanks for. And one of the most obvious is that delicious meal that many of us will consume on that Thursday holiday.

Many people when they give thanks will go to church, mosque, synagogue, or other place of worship to thank God or some other deity for the bountiful blessings that have been bestowed upon us by its beneficent presence. But I wonder how many people actually think to pause to even remember how that delicious holiday meal that they are about to consume even got there. Yes, it is fine to thank God or other supreme being for your delicious meal, but how many people even bother to thank the whole cast of people that actually do the work to make that holiday meal possible? God may be the Supreme Being that rules over all, but there are actual flesh and blood human beings that bust their backsides to actually bring that meal to your table.

Think about it! Did anyone ever thank the farmers? There are all kinds of farmers that go into making that Thanksgiving meal.

Crop farmers grow the corn (maize), cranberries, pumpkins, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, greens, cabbage, wheat, barley, tofu (made from soybeans), rice, oats, and the whole range of other vegetables and fruits that actually go into making a typical Thanksgiving meal. And they don't grow by themselves. They must all be cultivated. People actually work very hard to grow all those crops. Consider. All those crops need to be nurtured, watered, fed, and protected against the caprice of Nature including weather, pests, vermin, and wild animals. A lot goes into raising a single crop. From plowing the fields, to planting the seed, watching and watering and irrigating, to fertilizing, and watching some more, removing pests, monitoring the growth, and finally there is the harvesting when the crops are ready.

There are dairy farmers that produce all the milk products that go into the typical Thanksgiving meal. All that milk, cream, cheese, and butter, has to come from somewhere. Many processed foods contain milk products and milk derivatives, too. Like crop farmers, they have to nurture their product. Live animals require a lot of care and hard work. Animals have to be fed, cleaned up after, nurtured when they are sick. Think about all the money, time and expense that a dairy farmer has to deal with to raise even a single milk producing cow. Automation in large milk producers make the work easier, but still there is a lot of work involved. It doesn't happen by itself. Likewise a situation for chicken farmers who produce eggs.

Dairy farmers also often are meat farmers too. Meat farmers, of course, raise all the animals that are slaughtered for our holiday meal. Obviously turkeys are the number one ingredient, but cattle for beef, pigs, for pork, and a host of other farmers for other animals that may be used besides or in lieu of turkey also must be raised. Like dairy farmers, meat farmers must raise the animals from birth to slaughter and a lot of time and hard work goes into raising even a single animal for the slaughter to provide the meat for our meal.

Of course, all that food must be processed in order to make it so that people can eat it. The crops must be harvested and stored, sorted, graded according to quality, and packaged. Dairy must likewise be graded and processed and packaged. There is additional work to produce butter and cheese. There is the process of pasteurization to make the milk safe to drink. Animals used for meat must be slaughtered. And the process of killing an animal for food is difficult and bloody work. And consider the literally millions of turkeys that will be consumed over the holiday season, not only for Thanksgiving, but for Christmas and New Year's there is a mountain of work involved. And yes, of course, all that meat must also be processed and packaged to be sent to market. That is a lot of work, done by many people.

Of course, there are the wholesalers, distributors, and marketers, who actually sell the products which will actually wind up at your market. All those millions of tons of food that are handled has to be managed. Inventories have to be taken, stocks must be filled, orders must be filled. Somebody has to manage the orders, keep track of stock, monitor when and to where things are delivered.

Does anyone ever thank the delivery and transport people? Does anyone ever thank the truck drivers? Most food that is sold in the United States and Canada is grown and cultivated in regions far away from where they will be sold in supermarkets. Only a small percentage of food is locally grown and locally sold. There is a simple reason for this. Many foods cannot be grown in all places. Oranges, for example can only be cultivated in tropical and sub tropical regions. Thus all oranges that are sold in the U.S. must be shipped from far away places. Even oranges grown in the United States in such places as Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Georgia, Arizona, New Mexico, and California, are shipped to places further north where oranges cannot grow. And, of course, oranges are also imported from warm climate countries, such as Mexico. But all that food must be shipped wherever it comes from. Rail and trucks (or lorries as they are called in other English speaking countries) are the backbones of most of the shipping and transport. Food distributed in the United States is usually shipped by both rail and truck. Imported food tends to be transported more by air and by sea. But virtually everything goes by truck sooner or later. There is a saying, "You got it, a truck brought it!" Even imports are then loaded into trucks to be transported to warehouses, stores and supermarkets. During the holiday season, truck drivers must actually drive overland in all sorts of often dangerous weather conditions and other hazards, to transport foods and other items across the country. Truck drivers log countless man hours, often deprived of sleep to transport food to their destinations on time to meet the demand. Rail workers must bust their backsides too, and they must often coordinate with truck drivers to meet the demand of shipping all that food to its destination.

Of course, there are also people who have to monitor, count, and check all the items being shipped and where it is going, who gets the item, and who pays the bills for the items.

Finally, there are the supermarkets, smaller markets, stores, and other retailers that sell food items to put on the Thanksgiving table. Who does the advertising to let you know that turkeys are for sale at a good price? Who stocks the shelves and coolers with the items that you will make your meal with? Who offloads all those trucks who deliver to the markets? Who handles all the inventory to make sure that customers get the products that they want at their local market? Yes, these are all people that should be thanked. Everyone from the owners, to the managers, to the stock clerks, to the cashiers who ring up the purchases should be thanked.

There are a lot of people who help make that Thanksgiving meal possible!

But don't forget to thank the animals themselves. Yes, the animals! All those turkeys, chickens, cattle, pigs, and other animals that will be slaughtered for that Thanksgiving meal. Those poor animals don't have a choice. They are bred, grown and cultivated to die. These animals are perhaps unwilling sacrifices, but nonetheless they give their lives every day by the millions so that you and I can eat them and live. Nobody ever thanks the poor animals that give their lives so that we can live and enjoy them for our delicious meals.

Oh, and one last item. Unless you prepare the meal yourself, be sure to thank the cook or cooks that prepare that meal. After all, think of all that prep work to make that stuffing! All the prep work to make that turkey, to season it, to stuff it, to make the garnishes. To make a big Thanksgiving meal is a lot of work! The bigger the meal, the more work!

And maybe you can spare a word of thanks even for those people who did not actually prepare the meal, but just came to celebrate with you. They took their time out to come to be with you and help you eat all that good food. You should always appreciate your family and friends and thank them for who they are and they took the time to be with you -- and yes, even your pets! Make sure to remember to scratch your dog behind the ears, and give your cat a pat on the head!

Time is the most precious thing we have. And all living things that share their time with us are precious.

THANKS TO ALL! HAVE A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON! Happy Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays, for all other holidays not mentioned here that people celebrate at this time of year.

And thanks to the Examiner.com for this wonderful forum where this examiner can voice his thoughts on relevant issues of the day in relation to religion and spirituality.

Best to all!


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