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The challenges of Thanksgiving Day

Posted By November 11, 2011 | 11:54 am | Commentary
By Moises Sandoval Catholic News Service On Thanksgiving Day in America, perhaps the only time of the year when this happens, everyone is concerned that all be able to sit down to a sumptuous meal. That is why special dinners are prepared for the poor, homeless and other disadvantaged people. A recent story in my local paper described efforts of a local state legislator to organize a Thanksgiving meal for veterans. But hunger is a daily problem, not only for veterans but for all the people in the 17.2 million households who are hungry in the United States, the largest number ever recorded as of 2010, according to the World Hunger Education Service.

Los retos del DÌa de AcciÛn de Gracias

The following column appears first in Spanish, then in its English translation by the author.

By Moises Sandoval
Catholic News Service

On Thanksgiving Day in America, perhaps the only time of the year when this happens, everyone is concerned that all be able to sit down to a sumptuous meal. That is why special dinners are prepared for the poor, homeless and other disadvantaged people. A recent story in my local paper described efforts of a local state legislator to organize a Thanksgiving meal for veterans.
But hunger is a daily problem, not only for veterans but for all the people in the 17.2 million households who are hungry in the United States, the largest number ever recorded as of 2010, according to the World Hunger Education Service.
While the victims deeply appreciate the gesture of a Thanksgiving meal, they need more — much more.
For example, the best way to appreciate the sacrifice that veterans make for their country is to provide training and work opportunities for them when they come home. But for many, discharge from the military leads to the ranks of the unemployed. Some even end up homeless, living in the streets.
The concern symbolized by bumper stickers (“We support our troops”) does not seem to extend to the time when they return to civilian life.
So our meditation on Thanksgiving Day — if we can spare even five or 10 minutes of tranquility to have one — should be on what we can do on a daily basis in the struggle against hunger. It has to be more than donating to food banks, Meals on Wheels and other hunger charities, all worthwhile projects in themselves.
Ideally, our efforts would seek to change the equation where the few have too much food and millions go to bed hungry every night.
In these hard times, the consciousness that something is fundamentally wrong with the system gains sharp clarity.
Politicians responded with alacrity to rescue banks, brokerage firms and financial institutions during the Great Recession beginning in 2008, justifying their huge expenditures of public funds with the statement that these financial institutions were “too big to fail.”
Recent events warn national leaders that their concern has to shift to those who are “too little to fail.” That is the message of the Wall Street protests and of the unified efforts of U.S. bishops to preach in all parishes about creating jobs.
Social Security, Medicare and a health care law that guarantees universal access all seek to guarantee the vitality of the masses “too little to fail.”
The economic system is more at risk from mass unemployment and poverty than from the downfall of a few Wall Street titans.
As part of our meditation on Thanksgiving, we should also be grateful for the bountiful planet on which we live.
On Oct. 31, according to an article by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker, the population of the world passed 7 billion.
But, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, it still produces enough food to feed everyone: “World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.”
Perhaps, too, we should say a prayer of thanks for the human race to which we belong.
Just before 1800, the Rev. Thomas Malthus stated in his famous essay that the human population would always be held in check by war, pestilence or inevitable famine.
To these, we could add abortion and pollution and the large numbers of hungry people, estimated at 925 million in 2010 worldwide.
But such is the resilience and the creativity of humanity that the limits of Malthus’ premise have not yet been reached.

Quiz·s por la ˙nica vez en el aÒo, la fiesta de AcciÛn de Gracias nos preocupa que todos disfruten de una comida rica ese dÌa.

Hay comidas especiales para los pobres, los desamparados y otros grupos desfavorecidos. Una historia reciente describe esfuerzos de un legislador para organizar una comida especial para los veteranos.

Sin embargo, el hambre es problema cotidiano, no sÛlo para los veteranos sino para los 17.2 millones de hogares que carecen de alimento en los Estados Unidos, el m·s grande numero anotado, seg˙n el Servicio Mundial de EducaciÛn para El Hambre. Aunque las vÌctimas agradecen mucho el gesto de una comida para la fiesta de AcciÛn de Gracias, necesitan m·sñmucho m·s.

Por ejemplo, el mejor modo para agradecer el sacrificio que los veteranos hacen por la patria es proveer oportunidades para entrenamiento y empleo cuando ellos regresan. Para muchos, el fin de servicio militar los conduce a los rangos de los desempleados. Algunos se encuentran entre los desamparados, sobreviviendo en la calle. La estima que anuncian los carteles, ìApoyamos a Nuestras Tropas,î aparentemente no extiende a su regreso a la vida civil.

Entonces, nuestra meditaciÛn para el DÌa de AcciÛn de Gracias, si podemos dedicar cinco o diez minutos de tranquilidad, debe enfocar lo que podemos hacer diariamente en la lucha contra el hambre. Debe ser m·s que donar a dispensas de alimento, servicio domiciliario de comidas y otras caridades preocupadas por el hambre — todas en sÌ mismas proyectos de mucho valor.

Idealmente, nuestros esfuerzos deben dirigirse a cambiar la educaciÛn en cual los pocos disfrutan de demasiado alimento y millones se acuestan cada noche con hambre.

En estos tiempos difÌciles, se ve muy claro que algo est· fundamentalmente trastornado con el sistema.

PolÌticos respondieron con prontitud para rescatar los bancos, empresas de corretaje, e instituciones financieras durante la Gran RecesiÛn que empezÛ en 2008, justificando sus enormes inversiones de fondos p˙blicos con la explicaciÛn que estas eran ìdemasiado grandes para fracasar.î

Eventos recientes advierten a lÌderes nacionales que sus esfuerzos tienen que cambiar a favor de los que son ìdemasiado pequeÒos para fracasar.î Ese es el mensaje de las protestas contra Wall Street y de los esfuerzos unidos de los obispos del paÌs para predicar en todas las parroquias sobre la necesidad de crear empleo.

El Seguro Social, la ayuda mÈdica estatal para los ancianos, y la ley sobre cuidado mÈdico universal garantizan la vitalidad de las masas ìdemasiado pequeÒas para fracasar.î

Desempleo de millones y la pobreza masiva ponen al sistema econÛmico m·s en riesgo que el desplomo de algunos gigantes de Wall Street.

Como parte de nuestra meditaciÛn para el DÌa de AcciÛn de Gracias, debemos dar gracias por nuestro planeta generoso.

El 31 de octubre, seg˙n un artÌculo por Elizabeth Kolbert en la revista The New Yorker, la poblaciÛn mundial llega a siete billones.

Pero seg˙n la OrganizaciÛn de Alimento y Agricultura de Las Naciones Unidas, el planeta todavÌa produce bastante para alimentar a todos: ìLa agricultura mundial produce 17 por ciento m·s calorÌas por persona hoy dÌa que 30 aÒos pasados a pesar de un aumento de 70 por ciento de poblaciÛn. El problema principal es que mucha gente en el mundo carece de bastante terreno para cultivar o de ingresos para comprar suficiente alimentoî.

Quiz·s tambiÈn hay que dar gracias por nuestra humanidad.

Poco antes de 1800, Thomas Malthus escribiÛ en su ensayo famoso que el aumento de poblaciÛn serÌa restringido por la guerra, la pestilencia o la hambruna inevitable.

Pero tal es la capacidad de recuperaciÛn y la creatividad humana que los lÌmites previstos por Malthus no han llegado.

 

PHOTO: A chalice and host are seen in a Thanksgiving display at St. Joseph Church in Lincoln, Neb.(CNS photo/Cathy Blankenau Bender, Southern Nebraska Register)