Let’s Talk Turkey

Millions of people will wake today either smelling or anticipating the smells of turkey and all the trimmings.  The anxious clanking of silverware will give way to laughter and discussion.  Plans for the inevitable practice of consumerism will take place as hefty papers are splayed across diningroom tables, nationwide.  Online quibbles and arguments of who wins the most brownie points for closing their doors on Thanksgiving will cause online traffic jams.  Others will lobby to begin the shopping as soon pumpkin pie has digested.  All of this will take place, somewhat unaware of life going on in other places and homes.

‘Tis the season, and today will mark the airwaves playing nothing but Christmas carols, the invasion of gaily colored red and green decorations will tantalize.   Giving, giving, giving….’tis the season.

Recently I listened as store after store came together to donate full meals for families.  What a wonderful gesture and thought.  What a wonderful moment for those who can receive it with gladness.  I wonder, however, about that donation.

A full meal, or even a frozen turkey, would be a welcome gift to some…I repeat, some people.  The intention under which these items are gifted are done so in the most well-meaning attitudes.  What about those who cannot or do not look at such a gift as a wonderful opportunity to gather, cook, eat, and enjoy.

Let’s look at the simplest of gestures.  The turkey, the trimmings, the anticipated tastes almost make most people’s mouths water.  Ah, most people?  I wonder if a reframe is needed here.  Who are those most people we are assuming accept this? Take the well-intentioned  meal; turkey.  Does one have the ability or the means to cook such a bird?  Do they know how to make such a meal, are the necessary utensils, pans, ovens, or stove tops there to aid them?   Do they have a home or a family to share such a feast?  Have we stopped to consider whether these basic items are in place before we collectively extend gracious gifts?

Have we stopped to consider the populations who comprise more and more of our neighborhoods?  Is turkey and all the dressings part of their tradition?  Do they like turkey?  What traditions does the family bring with them as they share stories at table?  What are those stories and what can we learn from them?

Now some will counter here and say, but they have stood in lines to receive these donations, who are we to question what is happening?  They purposely stood in those lines, they took what we had to offer.   That is wonderful!!!!  Are we looking at some of the blanket assumptions we may operate out of as holidays approach quicker each year.  Are we extending these gifts out of a true desire to care for our brothers and sisters who may need a helping hand?  Or, are we extending these items to help us feel as though we have done something for which we can be proud?  Do I clean out my closets and hand someone else the clothes I am planning to get rid of anyway because my heart yearns to do so?   Do I do this because I truly want to come along another, grab them by the hand, listen to their story, and journey with them?  Is it easier for me to give an object or write a check, rather than climb in the muck of real life with another?  Is it easier to stay disengaged and protect my emotions and possessions?

It hurts to think of that.  It bothers me to reflect on how many times I have “given” someone something, not because I wanted to help, but because it would make me feel good and like I had done the “right thing”?  I don’t want to admit that I feel better giving away my cast-off clothes to someone I assume wants them…Did they ask for my clothes?  Did we have a jolly time cleaning out my  closets, giggling about inane fashions better left to history?   Do I really know them well enough to understand who they are, what they like, and do they have any ownership of what they have received?  Ownership, that is a new and somewhat uncomfortable concept.

Does that mean that people want to have a say in what they receive or how it is given?  That does not necessarily sit well.  I want to give, I want people to receive.  The problem there is that the focus is on what I want.  I have it to give, what else would you have me do?  I cannot answer that. there is no easy solution.  As lines for aid and assistance grow longer and longer, as commercials cry for an end to hunger and poverty, what is the solution?

Maybe, rather than looking at a solution to the whole problem, we need to reframe that too.  Why is it occurring?  Why are the lines down the sidewalk, across the road, and the donations dispersed in less than an hour?  Is this helping?  Is there a time when Helping Hurts?   Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert challenged and continue to challenge my thought process in their book:  When Helping Hurts, how to alleviate poverty without hurting others and yourself”  Does that concept require a new way of looking at how I help others?  Is my aid doing more to keep people set in a particular situation because I need them to be there?  Do I need them to be there?  Do I really, unconsciously want and need them to be there for me to help?  Is that the healthiest way to approach my brothers and sisters?  Do I even know that I could hold such a philosophy?  If so, that does require that I do some serious thinking about my motives.

At the end of the day, that is quite a drumstick to tackle.  It is huge and somewhat messy to pick up and eat.  Do I even like the drumstick? Can I content myself with a safe portion of comfortable mashed potatoes and dressing?  Am I content with eating a portion of the feast which is before me, or will I consume that which I know is a known quantity?  Can I approach the questions at hand as an opportunity to expand the items on my plate?  Or, do I sigh with a happy smile believing what I see before me is the best and hassle free way of loving the people who cross my path?

I close in grateful contemplation of the freedom to wrestle with such issues and for those who hold me to these tough questions.  I ask not one question of others that I do not ask myself, and there is no comfortable answer.  My obligation is to love my neighbor as myself….in the best way that honors both of us.

blessings to you and yours,

cahl

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