We spend the holiday time dividing society into two parts: those with plenty to eat and those that don't have enough to eat. As regular readers know, the "those that don't have enough" segment is growing.
So we work harder as a society to make sure people have something, especially for Thanksgiving. A noble sentiment, but as we've seen at a Wal-Mart in Ohio, the modern inequities have twisted the two-parts approach.
Bins in the backroom of this Wal-Mart had signs encouraging associates (Wal-Mart workers) to donate food for less fortunate associates.
Wal-Mart workers find themselves in the same boat, even if some boats have more leaks than others. They need help from dry land, not from their fellow boats.
Asking Wal-Mart customers to subsidize Wal-Mart associates isn't that much better, since they are in similar or possibly nicer boats. Wal-Mart, the company, could step up. The former hasn't been done (so far) and the latter is virtually impossible.
The bins aren't Wal-Mart's issue since, well, the company isn't involved in helping their employees, however unsettling the bins are to some.
Wal-Mart workers aren't the only ones struggling to get enough food. McDonald's took considerable criticism with telling employees that the best way to survive on a McDonald's wage is to get a second job and not pay for heat. The latest McDonald's advice:
"Breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full."
Assuming that advice works, and it doesn't, if McDonald's customers followed that same advice, you would see a decline in McDonald's sales, which would mean fewer hours and fewer employees.
The working poor certainly aren't limited to Wal-Mart and McDonald's workers and their customers. And their hunger needs aren't limited to the fourth Thursday in November.
Minimum wage increases, especially on the federal level, aren't viable until at least 2015. And we haven't even figured out how/if food stamps funding will continue.
Thanksgiving is a celebration about harvest and food, but we have twisted this into a two-part world where some eat several thousand calories in one sitting while others struggle with canned vegetables. We've made Thanksgiving about how many calories we can stuff in our face or feeling bad because we don't have that opportunity.
In the stereotypical pictures from our long-ago history books, the Pilgrims and native people shared a harvest and a table. The Pilgrims were celebrating because after an initial struggle in the New World, they had food.
So if you have food, even if it's donated, you should celebrate. And if you have the opportunity to have more, you should celebrate, too.
The Wal-Mart gesture is viewed through a prism of conservative and liberal. Liberals think it's horrible that the associates aren't being paid enough while conservatives like the idea of helping out fellow neighbors.
They are both absolutely correct.
In the Thanksgiving spirit, we should gather at a table with a harvest with liberals and conservatives and everyone else. We should enjoy a bountiful harvest. And then after dinner, we can discuss common ground so people can find ways to gather food by their own efforts, and leave some room in our hearts for solutions for those who are having trouble.
In the true Thanksgiving spirit, Thanksgiving is every day. It's time we had a food approach and policy that backs up the Thanksgiving spirit 365 days a year.
photo credit: Organization United for Respect at Walmart.