Thursday, November 27, 2014

Cranberry Relish and Interdependence - Gratitude 4

We had Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon with my mother's family. My aunt has been hosting Thanksgiving at her house for over two decades at this point. She makes most of the dinner but my mother brings rolls and sweet potato muffins, another aunt brings desserts, and another aunt brings pumpkin bread. We are a carbohydrate loving family, as you can see. My husband and I bring vegetables when we come since everything else is pretty much claimed.

One of the items on our table was orange cranberry relish, which was purchased from a local grocery store.  That is completely acceptable and even encouraged in my family; we are big fans of keeping things easy. The relish was good, but certainly not the star of the dinner table. It's just a dish I happen to like and as I ate it I thought about how amazing it is to eat orange cranberry relish. I began to imagine how much effort and how many people are involved in what looks like a really simple event: a woman eating orange cranberry relish at Thanksgiving dinner.

Oranges were grown in one part of the world. I don't know much about how you grow oranges, but I'm pretty sure a warm climate, trees, a farmer, and some hard work were involved. Cranberries are usually a cooler climate crop and I know they are hard work because the grow in bogs that have to be flooded to harvest them. There had to be a farmer to plant the bushes, build the irrigation system, flood the bog, harvest the berries, and then pack and ship them. Someone else took the oranges and cranberries and cooked them together in a relish. Yet another person in a factory somewhere made the plastic dish to hold the relish. Someone else stocked the grocery store shelves. My aunt drove to the store, where someone sold her the relish, and she brought it back home for us to eat.

So there's a huge chain of people involved in me eating orange cranberry relish on Thanksgiving day this year. I didn't even get into the people involved in transporting the cranberries and oranges to the right places, or the people who worked to make sure there was electricity and fuel available for farms, stores, trucks, machinery, and cars. Not to mention the people who built the buildings involved and the machines and the vehicles, the people who designed all of those things, and the people who figured some of these things out in the first place, like the person who learned that cranberries and oranges are tasty together, the person who started to grow oranges or cranberries in the first place, the person who came up with the idea for plastic dishes and figured out how to make plastic. There's the people who designed and built and sold the car my husband drove to get us to my aunt's house.

I could go on and on, trying to list all the people involved in one small side dish on the Thanksgiving table. I don't think I could work out the huge web of people and events that had to happen. What's even more astonishing is that you can do this with pretty much any object you see around you. Even your own body; think about how many people were involved in getting you to the point that you are reading these words on your computer screen or mobile device. I won't list them because the list would be as long or longer than the cranberry relish list, and you get the point. Try the exercise for yourself; it's kind of fun to see how many different angles you can come up with, and it gives you a whole new perspective,

I find this astonishing, and wonderful, and awe-inspiring, and humbling, and even overwhelming. We are all, at every moment, relying on each other. We live in this web of trust and interdependence all the time, without even thinking about it. We are connected, one to another, to people we will never meet and might not even like, but we need them all the same, and they need us too. That seems like a reason to give thanks!

See other posts in my Thanksgiving Week series:
Thanksgiving Week - Gratitude 1
Teachers - Gratitude 2
Baking With My Daughter - Gratitude 3