Time to Give Thanks

Dear Friend,

In November, we in America take time to give thanks. This year, though, that might be tough for many who are facing unemployment, lesser employment or even a home foreclosure. Still, we find a way to give thanks for our many blessings, and do so around a full table, reminding us that the origin of Thanksgiving was a humble appreciation for the food the land has given us.

Whether you believe all the details of the story about Native Americans and the Pilgrims, our Thanksgiving resembles rituals in cultures around the world. It is a celebration of the harvest.

It is easy to forget the harvest at the Thanksgiving table, not only because, despite our economic problems, we still have such abundance in this country, but because most of us are so removed from the actual production of food. We go to the grocery store and find a vast array of food that is completely disconnected from the season. The wheat in the bread we eat…. Who knows when or where it was harvested?

What we now take for granted, such as fresh vegetables year round, was unheard of a few generations ago, even in America. Meat now arrives not just from the stockyards of the West but from Australia. And canned plus dried and frozen foods—almost every kind of foodstuff—are readily available in some form.

This experience is so different from most of the rest of world, including in most of the countries where Catholic Relief Services works. Consider that, in Ethiopia, more than 80 percent of its 90 million people work in agriculture. Almost all are subsistence farmers. They eat what they grow. And if they don’t grow anything, they have nothing to eat.

Sometimes when drought strikes—like the one currently gripping East Africa, including much of Ethiopia—you hear people wondering why so many live in such an inhospitable place. Why don’t they just move to where it rains?

The fact is that droughts strike most everywhere. We have one going on right now in Texas. Many others have plagued our country in recent years. But we don’t feel their effects because we still find plenty to eat at the supermarket. With all the shipping and canning and freezing, our food system has plenty of ways to work around a shortage caused by a drought. So when we give thanks this harvest season, let’s be thankful for a food system that provides such abundance and resilience.

You are helping people around the world develop such resilience. It will be a long time before rural markets in Ethiopia and other countries resemble our supermarkets, but that these markets exist, that farmers have excess crops to sell at those markets, that people have money to spend from new livelihoods, are frequently all because of the work you support through CRS. With the current drought, many still are not getting enough to eat, but, through programs such as the CRS-led consortium in Ethiopia called the Joint Emergency Operation Plan, you’re helping to provide food to about 1 million people.

As we give thanks for our abundance in 2011, let us—as individuals and as a country—remember to share that abundance with our global family, who are thankful that they have anything at all to eat.

As I give thanks this year, it will be for having had the opportunity to serve you and work together for the past 4 decades to bring hope to those in need around the world. I cannot think of a greater blessing for me or my family. Thank you so much for being a part of it.

Ken Hackett

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2 Responses to “Time to Give Thanks”

  1. Eileen Gaquin Kelley Says:

    Thank YOU, Ken, for your years of service, and I wish you well in the future. Who would have thought all those years ago at St. Theresa’s in West Roxbury, what the future would hold for any of us!

    Eileen Gaquin Kelley
    (Your brother Bill’s class, Deirdre Gaquin’s sister)

  2. Peter Says:

    I am thankful, not only for the bounty that we receive for our table, but also for the bounty of caring hearts such as yours Mr. Hackett, and all the others who are part of CRS. May God bless you greatly.

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