A week or so ago, just before eating my evening meal, I paused to give thanks. The first prayer that ran through my mind was one that I often hear others pray before a meal, it begins with asking God to bless the hands that prepared the food. As is typical, I was dining alone and had prepared the meal myself. While there is no reason for one not to ask God for blessing upon one’s self, but that just didn’t feel quite right. Next, my mind recalled a phrase that I have seen several times posted on social media that asks, “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday.” I looked at my plate and started thinking about all the people that had played a part in the creation of my meal.
Those that know me personally understand that I have a quirky, if not weird sense of humor. Immediately, my mind jumped to a cute children’s book I had seen years prior. The words of the story were simply the lyrics to the song The Twelve Days of Christmas, however, the illustrations were hilarious. The illustrator created pages that showed the literal collective of each days gifts given by the recipient’s true love. On page one the recipient appears to be a combination of happy and confused standing in their living room beside a large potted pear tree adorned with a live partridge. By day twelve the recipient is hard to find in the illustration and looks incredibly stressed and annoyed to have twelve pear trees each with it’s own live partridge along with 352 other gifts, such as 30 Lords a Leaping and 36 maids a milking their 36 cows, all given by their true love.
I looked back to my plate. The dish was a new recipe for Cuban beef served over rice. I first considered the ground beef. I know a little about about the processing of meat from living on some mini-farms as a kid and from watching documentaries (If you have ever wanted to be a vegetarian you really must watch these) the pound of ground beef I had purchased at the store didn’t come from just one animal and in all probability came from multiple farms. My crazy sense of humor kicked into overdrive and started urging me to envision the following day, heading bleary eyed into the kitchen for coffee only to be greeted by twenty or more farmers that strangely resembled Eb from Green Acres. “Howdy Mame” My imagination failed to picture me looking anything even remotely like Eva Gabor but stubbornly stuck to a realistic view of myself. Darn.
One of those farmers went to the front door and invited in all the other workers from the various farms that played a part in last night’s ground beef. There were suddenly dozens and dozens of farmers in my kitchen. Some had grown hay and grain that fed the cattle that ultimately landed on my plate as Cuban beef. Others had farmed the cows that gave birth to the beef cattle. Next came the people that slaughtered and butchered the cattle. After that my kitchen couldn’t accommodate the huge flow of workers that continued to pour in. There were inspectors from the FDA and all sorts of agriculture people that had been involved to make sure that the meat was not only safe but wholesome. There were nutritionists that determined the information that was on the label along with the people that created and printed the label and all the other parts of the packaging.
By the time the various truck drivers joined the crowd of people that played a part in my pound of ground beef had the group spilled out from the boundaries of my yard and into the street. I realized I didn’t have anywhere near enough coffee pods or mugs and got worried. The people that designed and built the trucks along with the folks that work in the oil and gas industries all started to fill in the spots along the horizon, not to mention the mechanics that service the trucks for the drivers who started squeezing into the crowd beyond my line of vision.
I may have mumbled, “Holy Cow” as accountants, business executives, forklift drivers, store clerks, custodial workers and dozens of other professions lined the streets around my home and that was only for the ground beef! I could almost hear my grandmother, who loved to feed a crowd, exclaim, “Childern (that is how she pronounced children), do you suppose we’ll have enough food? The family used to laugh about this because even if Granny had thirty mouths to feed she would have enough food for fifty. I wanted to look behind me, find Granny standing by my stove and beg her to help me. Alas, Granny was already in heaven and most likely having a good laugh at my expense.
As I ate I contemplated the origin of the other ingredients in my meal. The rice probably came from California or Texas but it might have been grown in Bangladesh, China or another eastern country. Enter ship captains and crews along with dock workers and customs staff. The Olive oil most likely came from Spain or Italy. Green Olives could have been grown in California or Oregon but they were almost as likely to have been imported from Peru, South Africa or Spain. I imagined the newcomers to the crowd that now spread out for several miles in every direction asking for coffee but many of them didn’t speak English and, unfortunately for me, I never learned a second language. I would have needed multiple languages. I won’t even go into the garlic, tomatoes, raisins, vinegar and all the spices (Did you know that over 50% of the spices sold in the U.S. are imported?).
As I cleaned up the kitchen I thought about how the ingredients for the meal had been purchased from at least three different stores each of which all use different distribution centers. Add hundreds more people to the crowd. I thought about the appliances and utensils that played a part in the meal and the people that had been a part of that process. The workers that are essential to my electricity and natural gas humbly joined the group. I thought of the teachers that trained all those workers how to do their jobs which made me think of the workers that are involved in the manufacturing of school and business supplies. My imaginary village of people that I needed to thank for their part in my meal overflowed the boundaries of my entire town and it continued to grow. As it grew in size it also grew in diversity. What was I to do?
Finally, I noticed their smiles and kind eyes.
My over active imagination forgot about being stressed about where I would seat so many people and what I would feed them as my mind went back to my prayer and being thankful for the abundance in my life, abundance that encircles the world and ties us all together. I thought about when Jesus fed the masses with a few fish and two loaves of bread. It was no longer important that I couldn’t say thank you in all the various languages. We all understood one another. It seemed we had found peace that surpasses understanding.
My imagination asked a new “What if”. What if in heaven I can invite every last one of these people to my table and we can all share fellowship and appreciation for the gifts we offered to one another even when we had not met while on earth. We would magically all understand the languages and there would be no jealousy or pride about who played the more important role. We wouldn’t have to hurry to leave the table to return to jobs or other obligations because we would have eternity to fellowship with each other and with our God.
I realize I am smiling at my laptop because the image in my brain is so wonderful. Perhaps my imagination isn’t that quirky and weird after all.
Thanks for stopping by and Thank you for the gifts you bring to my life because no matter where you live or what you do for a living, we really are all connected.
This week’s photographs were provided by Eric Schroen, Stavrialena Gontzou, the National Cancer Institute, Roseanna Smith and Yours Truly