Be Thankful

With Christmas being on Monday urban areas are choked with traffic all across Canada. I even leave my frozen lair once in a while this time of year to do a little Christmas shopping. It amazes me how crowded things can be. Christmas has become quite an industry for retailers. It is their Super Bowl and as we head into the weekend they are hoping to get those profits to finally put them over the hump for the year. It certainly has become commercialized.

Christmas is many things to many people here in North America. However, one thing that it is is a celebration with food. Food has become ubiquitous in our society and Christmas is a time where many families prepare big meals and service agencies put on Christmas meals for the homeless and less fortunate. I can remember a time when we used to have to pluck a turkey Christmas morning in order to get ready to cook. Thankfully, those days are over. In any case, there is a lot of food consumed on Christmas and we all should be thankful.

I trust that all of you will have a good celebration on Monday and into the next week when we put an end to 2017. Christmas in 2017 is quite a bit different for me than it used to be. It’s partly because many family members have left us through the years and its simply 2017. In fact, I’m sure theirs people out there that can’t wait till Christmas day is over so they can get the Boxing Day.

Unfortunately, as I grow older I have somewhat of a problem with the consumption of Christmas. I still enjoy many aspects of it, including the religious significance but it’s the food consumption that gets me every time. Since I have traveled to Bangladesh starting in 1993 I have a real problem with the copious amounts of food that we eat here in the West versus other parts of the world, where food is much more expensive and a lot scarcer. When I travel to Bangladesh I see a lot of poverty, much of it with people begging for food to eat. It is made it so back here at home its never been quite the same. With me being a farmer and producing thousands of bushels of food a year, it’s always something in the back of my mind.

In Asia the people eat a lot of rice. Here in Canada, we don’t eat so much rice. On arrival to Asia, you get the idea. When people eat a meal, rice is usually always included. In fact, the four largest rice-consuming nations are China, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh. It is a staple, which is so important for the social fabric of each country.

In a place like Bangladesh there are a lot of poor people who don’t necessarily know tomorrow where they will find food to eat. Bangladesh is a bit of a success story because over the 24 years since I first went there economic growth has been strong and poverty rates have decreased. In fact, they’ve decreased so much that it’s tangibly evident on the streets. Each time I go back, there is less poverty. It is a very good thing.

One of my visits there a few years ago I noticed a poor young family eating rice on the street close to where my colleague and I were getting a car repaired. The family was squatting amid squalor eating rice with their hands, typical of many people in the country. There were no food stalls near us; in fact we were in a bit of an industrial area. I inquired to my colleague where they may have got this rice to eat. He commented to me that they would’ve begged for it in the area. Some Good Samaritan came out and gave them something to eat. It happens all the time all over Bangladesh.

That’s a hard part for me, especially as a farmer. In that country people beg for food, less so than it used to be, but it still happens everywhere. In fact, I have felt more than once people begging in front of me, beside me, and behind me. They tap my body softly when they beg with voice sounds, which constrain my senses. It once was uncomfortable, but I’ve grown used to it. Now, I just simply feel conspicuous coming from a land where food is ubiquitous to a place where it’s much more difficult to get.

Of course in Canada we have food banks that help the poor and homeless. There are some people here who are hungry too. Meanwhile in my world, food is ubiquitous, it’s like oxygen, its everywhere. Of course we know the world is awash with grain surpluses now. That is a long story.

So at Christmas time I’m conflicted. I love our celebrations in our society, and I join in like anybody else. However, as a food producer, I can’t shake those hungry faces I’ve seen so many times around the world. However, I guess, that’s my problem. Be thankful. I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas.