I’m only eating this single bowl of organic wild rice and beans on this Thanksgiving Day.
Most Americans, however, will be sitting around the table with family and friends eating turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy with all of the traditional trimmings that come with this federal holiday established by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
While I’m eating my single bowl of rice and beans on this Thanksgiving Day, I will remember that nearly 48 million Americans, or nearly 15 percent of the total U.S. population, woke up today living in poverty.
I will remember with every bite that each of these American families is stressed about where their next meal will originate. I will think about the poor’s plight as Republicans prepare to give tax cuts to multi-national corporations at the expense of the middle class and the working poor—if we don’t stand up and demand Congress to vote “no” on their disastrous tax plans.
As I eat my single bowl of rice and beans, I will appreciate each bite with the same level of gratitude that I have for the fact that I have access to food on a daily basis. As I take another bite, I will remain mindful of the acute challenges that humanity confronts as a result of population growth and related food security issues.
When Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day, he hoped that all Americans could experience gratitude for “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” Today, as I eat my single bowl of rice and beans, I will be immensely grateful for nature, the fields, and skies upon which we are dependent.
Today, I will remain mindful that I have the luxury of making the choice to eat a single bowl of rice and beans while others may not even have a meal, and definitely not a choice to go without one.
I will feel and express my gratitude for all that I have, even in the midst of an orgy of spiritual materialism that begins this evening before Black Friday and continues through December 25th as we celebrate the annual ascent of American gluttony and rampant consumerism in the name of Jesus Christ.
As I eat my single bowl of rice and beans, I will remember the small farmers of America who are now myth, while acknowledging the plight of small farmers around the world who can’t compete with large agricultural interests dependent on corporate welfare, in the form of subsidies, that decreases productivity, and minimizes profits for small farmers.
As I eat my single bowl of rice and beans, I’ll think about the Wall Street investors that finance the degradation of our soils in America, and abroad, as they back big corporate agricultural interests to produce low quality food for consumers to buy. I will remember that they are those who finance the clear-cutting of forests worldwide and destroy the plains and prairies as they convert the land to expand commercial agricultural operations, while remembering that we are ultimately responsible as consumers.
I will remember to take actions to protect Earth’s soils that are being further degraded due to large inputs of artificial fertilizers, chemicals, and pesticides that ultimately undermine the long-term productivity of lands, and the health of humanity.
As I eat my single bowl of rice and beans, I will remember that the primary cause of land degradation is human population growth, which furthers both desertification and deforestation. I will remember that for most of Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, there were no people, while holding gratitude for our fellow Homo sapiens that have evolved over the last 200,000 years, making it possible for me to be here today.
As I eat, I will remain mindful that we are going to need more food to feed more people as we move into the future. I will remember that the human population for most of our history was less than 500 million people until the agricultural revolution commenced around 12,000 years ago. I will remember the year 1800 when the human population increased to one billion people for the first time in Earth’s history. I will remember that in 1999, the population was six billion and then think about the 1.3 billion people that have been added to the Earth in the last 17 years, bringing our current population to 7.3 billion.
I will be grateful for every bite of my rice and beans as I think about how we currently produce enough food but fail to distribute it to hundreds of millions of people who go hungry each day. I will remain grateful that I am not one of the thousands who literally starve to death because they don’t have access to the foods produced, even when there is enough to go around.
As I eat my single bowl of rice and beans today, I will remember that 12.3 percent of Americans, or 15.6 million American households confronted food insecurity at some point during 2016.
With each bite, I will remember the 795 million people who go hungry worldwide every day. I will remain mindful of the one in nine who suffer from chronic malnourishment (FAO) and the 21,000 people who die from malnutrition each day, including today.
As I eat every bite of my single bowl of rice and beans today, I will remember that I, along with my fellow Americans, waste 27 million tons of food each year.
I will remember that minimizing food waste can have a huge impact and express my gratitude for those who work to minimize it. I will remember to eat my leftovers every other day after today since I won’t have any leftovers after my single bowl of rice and beans.
Given that Thanksgiving Day is supposed to be about giving thanks, I felt that there was no better way to feel and experience gratitude than by being mindful and eating less today in solidarity with all of those who do not have the same choices that I have in life.
I have plenty to be grateful for each day, so going without a big Thanksgiving Day meal isn’t actually much of a sacrifice given that I can choose to eat nearly anything I want every day, or visit friends and family as I please over the course of the year. More than anything, I just want to be grateful for all that I have and this is my way of feeling it in the most explicit way possible.
I made this choice in solidarity with the 3.5 billion people who rely on rice each day as their main source of calories to survive. And, I do it in solidarity with all those who share in gratitude today.
Here’s to gratitude, and a truly Happy Thanksgiving.
A Buddhist Thanksgiving.
Author: Dr. Matthew Wilburn King
Image: Author’s Own & Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Emily Bartran
Social editor: Waylon Lewis
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