A bessing for the hands that feed us – for Thanksgiving

Let’s, on this Thanksgiving, reflect on whose hands we are blessing as we sit down to a meal.


Perhaps we start with the hands of God or Gaia or the God of your Understanding as they say in AA. Just imagine. The amazing marriage of sun and seed that brings over a quarter of a million edible and medicinal plants species to us, not by the glory of agriculture but by the glory of the gift of biodiversity. Then imagine…the amazing marriage of plants and animals, plants that capture the energy of he sun and animals that capture that energy through eating plants – and one another. None of this through the brilliance of human intervention.

The earth is designed for all to flourish – and for all to eat from the bounty of our generous Sun. Life sacrifices itself for life to continue, an endless relationship of feeding and being fed, birth to death. A ton of food a year goes through our bodies, life sacrificed that we might life. See infographic below.

Just imagine. Billions of soil organisms and millions of gut organisms transform plant and animal matter into energy for us to use. What an amazing generous life beneath the soil and hidden in our bodies. All living and dying in mutual nourishment, mutual sacrifice. Some of those organisms will transform the flesh and bones and organs I’ve been given for a glorious life (70 years so far) into more nourishment. My gift back to the earth.

Now let’s move to the hands that feed us through agriculture. Imagine the thousands of generations that have saved and bred seeds and raised livestock – all within the bounds of the earth until the last 50 years or so as we’ve abandoned the shores of humility to sail the seas of domination of nature. Thank you ancestors, all the generations of living and dying that made it possible for me to live. I can never thank you enough.

Now let’s thank our farmers who risk economic failure every season because they grow a crop – so we might eat. Who know how to coax a crop out of the ground. Who can’t now afford land so they rent or tenant farm. Who have been thrown off their land or had their land destroyed because someone wanted to capture their oil or gas or views. And let’s forgive, for at least this one day, the distortions that have come from our manipulations of land, plants and animals to make a profit while promising to feed the people. Let us for one day not speak ill of the Industrial system and keep in mind that these corporations are full of people doing the best according to their own best lights.

Let’s be amazed by the logistics of our food system, even with all our knowledge of the ills of long distance transportation. Getting a crop to market is no small feat. Yes 40% of our food globally is wasted somewhere between field and fork, but isn’t it amazing that 7 billion people eat at least some food every day, and an estimated 6 billion have enough. Let’s not think for this day about the quality of this food or how scant enough is for many people, but rather be amazed at this miracle of eating.

Now let’s be amazed at how little we each invest in, or even appreciate, or even know about the hands that feed us. How can it be that so many of us don’t know where our food comes from or how to cook it – that we are disconnected in the extreme from these hands and yet we eat every day?

Finally, let’s commit to these hands that feed us, commit to be aware eaters in a living world, commit to daily gratitude and praise, commit to inform ourselves about and work on issues that affect small scale farmers, commit to eat what they grow so our communities might prosper. Let’s commit to grow a little so we know what it takes, and to throw no food in the garbage that we or the chickens or the worms might eat. Let’s recommit to being animals, to understanding the joyous sacrifice all life makes so life may flourish. So let’s remember that we all die, all untold billions of us critters, so that which we love may life.

And now let’s join Thich Nhat Han in these contemplations before a meal:

  1. This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.
  2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive this food.
  3. May we recognize and transform unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed and learn to eat with moderation
  4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet.
  5. We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, build our Sangha, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.

Thanksgiving! Let’s have it be daily.

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* Since the 1900s, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide have left their multiple local varieties and landraces for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties.

* 30 percent of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction; six breeds are lost each month.

* Today, 75 percent of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species.

* Of the 4 percent of the 250 000 to 300 000 known edible plant species, only 150 to 200 are used by humans. Only three – rice, maize and wheat – contribute nearly 60 percent of calories and proteins obtained by humans from plants.

* Animals provide some 30 percent of human requirements for food and agriculture and 12 percent of the world’s population live almost entirely on products from ruminants.

Source: FAO. 1999b


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