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November 1, 1999 - Gluttony, Giving and Grace

"The glory and the art of living will be in
the ability of individuals to balance the
abundance of that which is given to them
with the abundance of their giving."

-- Walter Russell

"Thank you, turkey, for giving your life to
us in this way on this day."

-- my youngest daughter,
when she was 4 years old

Gluttony, Giving and Grace

The third Thanksgiving feast I prepared after leaving my parent's home was different from any other I had made or eaten in the heretofore twenty-one years of my life. I was living in a small cottage nestled in the magnificent Pocono Mountains. For two years or so I had gradually been weaning myself from the standard American diet I was raised on and moving toward a vegetarian way of eating. In early November I decided that Thanksgiving would be the perfect time to make a full commitment to this new lifestyle. My husband and I embarked upon an eight hour round trip journey to Essene Natural Foods in Philadelphia's south side, where we purchased fifty pound bags of myriad flours, grains, and beans, as well as a plethora of herbs, spices, teas, nut butters, sea vegetables and condiments. When we got home, we packed up all the cans and containers of our "old style" food and took the overflowing boxes to a nearby impoverished community.

The day before Thanksgiving, our resolve wavered a bit. Our friends had warned us that the shift we were making was quite radical, and gently assured us that "breaking the diet" every once in a while was to be expected. Not being able to imagine this holiday without the enticing smell of turkey wafting throughout the kitchen, I purchased a one pound, one person serving size Cornish game hen by way of compromise.

On Thanksgiving day I stuffed this wee bird and placed it in the oven to bake. Shortly afterwards, a young Pennsylvania Dutch boy who did odd jobs for us rode up to our house on his bike to wish us a happy Thanksgiving. He walked into the kitchen. "Sure smells good in here... may I in the oven have a look," he shyly asked in the charming and disarming manner the Pennsy Dutch phrase their questions, using a unique syntax with no inflection. I nodded and he peeked in. He was horrified. A tear fell on his cheek as he said, "I know youse live simply, but this ain't right. None of us knew. You should have told us." I laughingly tried to explain but he was out the door in a flash.

Several hours later a group of neighbors arrived with a twenty-five pound fully baked turkey, half a home cured ham, steaming casseroles, cartons of canned goods and a shoo-fly pie which I graciously accepted, recognizing the futility of trying to convince these kind people about what we were doing and why. From their perspective, we were obviously destitute. The next day I made another run to the impoverished mining community, providing more bounty for their larder. In recent years, I have prepared a feast for my family and friends which includes turkey but also vegetarian main dishes, fondly remembering that poignant Thanksgiving 27 years ago.

How we celebrate the holiday season is deeply influenced by our childhood conditioning and experiences we have had in our adult lives to date. Unfortunately, some of our memories are not so pleasant. As a result many of us approach this season in a spirit of overwhelm and barely concealed resentment, to say nothing about accelerated stress levels. We feel trapped by a tradition that behooves us to overindulge, spend money we do not have and time with people we neither respect nor love, activities which generally make us feel guilty, bitter and hypocritical. In extreme cases we wallow in self pity, become deeply depressed or antagonistic. Even those of us who have implemented alternative orientations often do so from a place of "grin and bear it", counting the days until the season will end. Is there a way that can really help us "get through the holidays" with a spirit of joy and inner peace?

The prevailing celestial energies at this time are intense, almost as if we are being challenged to behave differently than we have before, especially in situations where our deeply held emotions are at risk of running amok. Rather than making radical, sweeping shifts we are supported to acknowledge and then openly talk about our feelings, after which we can subtly make small acts of powerful change. Having done so, we will not need to verbally "give thanks" before the Feast, because our very beings will silently radiate gratitude and grace.

© Kristina Strom

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