Express gratitude through giving

TheStar.com – opinion/editorials
Published On Sun Oct 09 2011.

A golden bird sizzling as it’s drawn from the oven; bubbling gravy destined for mingling with buttery mashed potatoes; russet wedges of pumpkin pie redolent of cinnamon and allspice — the traditional Thanksgiving feast is a treat for the senses.

No wonder the holiday is linked to over-indulgence. As Kevin James, a portly comedian, put it: “Not a good day to be my pants.”

That’s all right. There will be no lecture here on weight watching, health risks inherent in a high-fat diet, the wonders of tofu, the perils of excess salt, too much sugar, or not enough fibre. Not today. We can think about all that tomorrow.

This should be a day devoted to savouring the best of the harvest season — a day of making stock and taking stock — a time to remember that, as Canadians, we are among the luckiest people on the planet. Consider each succulent treat shared today a physical reminder of our collective good fortune.

As a society, we span a continent laden with riches. It’s a land that hasn’t felt the oppressive tread of invading armies in almost 200 years. Despite economic turmoil, our standard of living remains exceptionally high. And Canadians have together built a country where the rule of law prevails and where people of all faiths, and all origins, can live peacefully together. This is truly among the most blessed of nations. Preoccupied by the frictions and stresses of everyday life, we tend to take that for granted. But millions around the world can only dream of living in such comfort and security.

Even so, even here, people still go without. The broad well-being that blankets this land has holes and frayed patches. It doesn’t cover everyone; it doesn’t keep us all warm. That’s worth remembering, too, while savouring this day’s abundance.

The numbers are sobering. There were more than a million client visits to Greater Toronto Area food banks in the last fiscal year. That’s 14 per cent higher than pre-recession levels and is a testament to how many people remain in need, even in the richest of societies.

How deep is their poverty? A report last month from Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank found that its clients spend 72 per cent on average of their income on housing. Given a median monthly income of just $925, that leaves a scant amount for basics like food, bus fare, clothes and medicine. Even with the food bank’s help, many go hungry — forced to choose between paying rent and buying groceries. There’s no golden bird on their table.

In an effort to restock depleted shelves, the food bank’s annual fall drive aims to collect 400,000 pounds of food and $400,000 by Friday. It won’t be easy. For that very reason the campaign warrants enthusiastic support.

Most Canadians have much to be grateful for. But it isn’t enough to simply appreciate our blessings. We should make an effort to share them. By all means indulge for one day, but let’s try to be thankful all year and express that gratitude by giving.

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