In a few days, many of us will gather together with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. This year I am especially grateful for my family, for the family of faith, and for the great blessings we have in this country, many of which we take for granted. For instance, the religious liberty we enjoy has been fought for at a great price, and this is one of the best gifts of our country.
Another gift that we are blessed with abundantly in this country, and one we sometimes take for granted, is food. Indeed, one of the joys of Thanksgiving is gathering together to enjoy a meal with family and friends. We all probably have our favorite Thanksgiving foods, whether it’s turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, or perhaps a family recipe that is unique to your celebration of Thanksgiving. My favorite is definitely pumpkin pie! I’m getting hungry just thinking about all of this.
And yet, as I reflect on the way I celebrate Thanksgiving, I recognize that I don’t always think very much about the food I am eating and how it made it to my plate. You see, in our American culture today, most of us are able to take our food for granted. We simply go to the grocery store, find the aisle where the food we want is located, pay the cashier and go on our way.
This wasn’t always the case. A few generations ago, many families would have grown at least some of their food or been in a personal relationship with those who did. Being able to go to the grocery store to buy what we need is a great convenience, of course, but it also disconnects us from the source of our food. We are removed from the process it takes to grow something that can sustain and satisfy us. We are also removed from the sacrifice, commitment and reliance on God and God’s creation that goes into producing our food.
At the same time, we can take our food for granted by failing to be aware of those around us who go hungry. Even in our own community, there are many families who struggle with food security. We must do more to ensure that no families have to worry where their next meal will come from.
So as you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I would encourage you to spend some extra time reflecting on the blessing of food that we can so easily take for granted. Make time to pray, very intentionally, for those who labor to grow our food, and for those who go without food on a regular basis. In the Jewish tradition, to eat without giving thanks is seen as a form of stealing, so pausing to give thanks before we eat is the least we could do.
But I would urge you not to stop with prayer and reflection. Let the Holy Spirit guide you to action. Make a commitment in the next year to learn more about where your food comes from and the struggles of those in our community who lack sufficient food. Volunteer your time at a local food pantry or educate yourself on some of the reasons people in our community are hungry and work to overcome them. Reach out to get to know a farmer and learn more about what goes into producing your food. One way you might do this is by attending one of our Rural Life Day Masses next spring to pray with, learn from and stand in solidarity with our farmers and others from our rural communities.
Any of these actions would be a great way to show that we recognize the blessing of food in our lives. May we never take that blessing for granted. Happy Thanksgiving!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter at @BpDavidRicken.