Globe Syndicate

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

for release November 17, 2000

How Do We Keep Thanksgiving When Hardly Anyone Has a Harvest?

This is the season of Thanksgiving. I know, I'm a little late for Canada, where this column also appears. I heard one Winnipeger joke that Canada has to have Thanksgiving in early October because by the end of November, there would be nothing to be thankful for. Everyone would be snowed in.

Thanksgiving, no matter when you celebrate it, is really one of the most ancient of all feasts or celebrations. Almost every culture and country for centuries back had some kind of harvest celebration at the end of the harvest season. In fact, the "first Thanksgiving" as we usually think of it in the U.S., more likely followed the custom of the Native Americans who had numerous feast days throughout the year, rather than being a custom of the Pilgrims, who were not big on holiday celebrations. Those who worked the land in the very early days of modern settlements in North America would have found the work excruciatingly hard.

Most of us don't do our work on farms anymore, only about 2 percent of the population. While some of us do attempt to garden, for many life is far removed from the land, harvest, and the rhythms of nature. So sometimes it seems Thanksgiving is more about watching TV (parades and certain kinds of games I won't mention) and early Christmas shopping, rather than pausing to thank God for the harvest. Even far removed from the physical work of harvest, we can thank God for the food we enjoy and for the continued ability to grow food on this planet.

But most of us do other forms of work that bring us money with which to buy food. And so Thanksgiving in a very real way can be a pause from normal work to celebrate the ability to do work. We can be thankful for a job, if we have one, for opportunities for education that will hopefully lead to employment, and for health that allows us to work.

On a recent trip to New York City, I had to board a commuter train on Long Island at 5:05 a.m. in order to make it into Manhattan for a 7:30 a.m. meeting. For this country girl who is used to hopping in her suburban type mini-van and dashing four miles to the office in less than seven minutes, it was a good reminder of what many workers throughout the world do every single work day. They get up at 4 a.m. to catch a train because a later train would get them to work too late. What a grind.

Everyone on the train was sleeping as I boarded. It was almost totally blue collar workers at that hour, heading into the city for hard work in construction, clean up, working in restaurant kitchens, road crews. I've also often noticed when driving on beltways around large cities, that the folks traveling homeward at 7 p.m. are often the working class plumbers, carpenters, mechanics and so on.

How far we have come from the days when life revolved around farming and harvest. One of the things I am thankful for is all the people who work so hard to make life easier, smoother, less demanding. I'm thankful for hospital cleaning persons who have to keep things not only clean, but as germ-free as possible; for the people who clean up dribbles in service station bathrooms. I'm thankful for the poultry workers who stand on their feet all day cutting up and packing turkeys 'til their hands are chapped from working in freezing cold water.

I'm thankful for the shift workers who hose down fast food restaurants and for people who have to wear hairnets to keep our food cleaner. I'm thankful for pastors who work 70-hour weeks so that everyone feels visited, comforted and cheered; for teachers who grade papers until midnight and doctors who sleep only four hours before getting up to do it all over again. I'm thankful for people who assemble cars, kitchen cabinets and watch over lines capping aspirin bottles. I'm thankful for mechanics, air conditioning repairpersons, and fuel oil delivery persons who rescue freezing households at 11 p.m. I'm thankful for farmers who sweat out draught years and suffer from lower prices in rainy years when the harvest is plentiful. I'm thankful for migrant workers who pick the apples, harvest the tomatoes, pick the cabbages.

Let's not lose this most uncommercial of holidays, this season of being thankful, whenever it is celebrated. If you don't do harvest, be grateful for all the people who contribute toward your ease of life, and to God, the giver of food, work, and rest.

For a free booklet, "Work Therapy," write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail:

You can also visit Another Way on the Web at

Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.

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