Saturday, November 29, 2008

Giving Thanks

I was listening to NPR the other day. It was Tuesday morning, the day before our Thanksgiving holiday break. I was tooling along, planning the menu for the big meal, right? I was looking forward to the break. My folks were coming down, we were just all just going to take it easy. Play some music, share some story, laugh, eat a lot. Family. Fellowship. Thanksgiving.

Riding along, only half listening to the radio, there was a report from Zimbabwe. Political leaders fighting about power, the U.N. cut its food rations and they are predicting a terrible crisis.

Part of the story focused on one woman and her plight. Her name is Katy. She was searching through the dirt in a recently plowed field for single grains of corn. She hadn’t eaten for three days. Three days. She was 70 something, bending over in the blazing sun, looking for grains of corn to take back to her home and split with her grandson. Three days without food. The last thing she had eaten was a wild root. She was sick to her stomach, foraging for food for her grandson and herself, she said that all she could do was to put her faith in God.

This is one of those classic stories that make you look at the world differently. At least it did for me. You can hear that millions of people in southern Africa are at risk. That millions are hungry. And it does affect you, right? It is sad.

But sometimes it takes one person’s story to make a real difference in how you understand. Katy was literally giving her last strength to help her grandson survive. Looking at her face (on the NPR website) makes a different, far more powerful impression. Imagine Katy times millions. In that way we can go beyond simply large numbers to looking carefully at the tragedy of real people. People who have the same joys sorrows as us. Looking into the eyes of one person makes the larger picture clearer, more focused somehow.

So at this Thanksgiving time, let us really understand the tremendous blessings we have. We have been born into a world of food and creature comforts almost unparalleled in the big picture. As we go to bed with full stomachs each night, let us be mindful of those who are hungry. And as we eat our big holiday meals, let that food give us the strength to make the world a better place.

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