Last week I heard on the radio, and my friends read in the paper that the local food bank and the Salvation Army would not have enough food for Thanksgiving, especially turkeys. Now, it’s a great tradition to pack Thanksgiving food boxes for the less fortunate, and to provide a wonderful Thanksgiving meal for the homeless and poor. The increased and increasing requests for food, however, have caused my community food bank to be straining to get enough food, let alone turkeys.
In our effort to make an offer of gratitude by providing turkeys to the Salvation Army, where they feed 4,000 people on Thanksgiving Day, my friend and I decided to buy four to five turkeys to deliver to the center. First we stopped at Fry’s (a Kroger store) to inquire about obtaining a donation. We were told that we could only get one turkey at a time, at the discounted price, if we bought $25 worth of groceries. The manager explained that the company was being very strict about this policy, because, you see, there is a turkey shortage. What?!!! We hadn’t been aware of any turkey shortage. The manager said they almost didn’t have enough turkeys for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season last year as well. Since we weren’t going to buy $125 worth of food to get five turkeys, we thanked the manager and headed to Safeway.
At Safeway we found the manager, and told him we were wanting to buy four to five turkeys for the Salvation Army, and could he give us a discount. Boy, were we naive!!! He asked us how did he know we were giving them to the Salvation Army? Did we have an organizational ID to buy the turkeys? So, after a few more entreaties and our statement of good faith that we were shopping to give away our turkeys, the manager agreed to let us buy two turkeys at the discounted price, without having to buy $25 worth of groceries for each one. Geesh! We didn’t know how hard it was going to be to give turkeys away!
So, with two 20-pound (or so) turkeys in the back of my friend’s car we headed to the Salvation Army. As it turned out the two turkeys were my friend’s contribution, and I provided a cash gift of like amount. I was delighted to see that, as we arrived, others were also bringing frozen turkeys (and a couple of hams) to the center. One fellow, with five turkeys – when asked – said that for each one purchased a $25 purchase for groceries was required. We surmised that five people had contributed a turkey and paid the grocery price to get the advertised discount.
Today, because I was curious, I researched the turkey shortage. Apparently the terrible weather in many parts of the country over the past year or so, where people raise turkeys, has resulted in turkeys dying, creating a shortage. This is not good news. I heard recently, too, that chickens will be more expensive because the cost of feed is escalating. I think people will have to become much more creative about how they eat in the future. There is enough food to go around – maybe not a turkey for every family in America on Thanksgiving Day – but food. Plain, healthy food.
And I think that perhaps some attitudes need to change about what we MUST have for our special holidays, or tailgate parties, or Super Bowl Sundays. Perhaps we also need to rethink our giving habits. Can we give year-round to our local food banks instead of focusing so much on the one big box of stuff for Thanksgiving or Christmas (or Easter)? Yesterday I listened to an interview with a national food bank representative (I don’t remember her name, or organization) who advised that the dollars given to the food banks go a lot farther than personal bags of groceries purchased at the local grocery store. When I give to the food bank again, it will be via a check, and I’m going to forget about turkeys for Thanksgiving. Just maybe we need to create new traditions for our national day of gratitude (and football).
In some American Indian traditions, the turkey is the “Give Away Eagle”. It’s a symbol of giving to help others and denotes a generosity of spirit. ‘Give-away’ is not to give something that is easy to give – it is to let go of something of value to share with others. In the Northwest the Indians have potlatch ceremonies to give away what is needed by another. I like to think that we eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day because of the graciousness and sharing of the American Indians who helped the newcomers to this continent to survive. And in turn, we give – perhaps a turkey – to show our appreciation and gratitude for our own prosperity (not to be confused with wealth and material goods, although these are part of prosperity.)
Of course, there is a caveat about this; we must become aware of times when we strive for more than what we need. The initiation of “Occupy” presents this idea of redistribution of wealth. In truth, there is plenty to go around for everyone in the world; the problem lies in the distribution of the goods. My friend and I were so surprised to meet with what I see as bureaucratic and economic barriers to offering assistance. I’m sure we’re not the only ones to have this kind of experience.
And finally, I want to offer my gratitude for the ability to write, and to be able to post my ideas and thoughts in this format. Thanks also to all who read these meandering topics.