Is there going to be Thanksgiving this year?

When milk checks don’t cover expenses is there still reason for Thanksgiving? Take account of the blessings of life, food and friendships, and give thanks.

It’s been a tough year for dairy farmers; milk prices have been low for two years and in Michigan a deduction has taken another bite out of milk checks to cover the cost of milk sold at a loss by their cooperative. The final price received by the farmer either barely breaks even or has not covered costs. In addition, many have experienced other losses and sadness. Harvest may be complete, but there is no feeling of abundance this year. In fact, one could justifiably ask whether there is anything for which to be thankful this Thanksgiving season.

Thanksgiving though, is not about recognizing abundance as much as it is about recognizing blessings. Even as the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest in 1621 at Plymouth Colony, one could have asked them whether there was anything for which to be thankful?

Over 100 had made the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1620. After having left much later than they anticipated, they arrived too late to build residences on the land. They spent most of their time that first winter on the overcrowded ship. Disease spread, provisions waned and sanitation was lacking. During the winter 42 men, women and children died. By November of 1621, only 53 survived. Things were tough.

They found though, they had unexpected friends among the Wampanoag native people and their chief Massasoit and Squanto. They taught the Pilgrims how to grow crops and find wild food to harvest, catch and kill. So it was that in the fall after harvest that the surviving Pilgrims and around 90 native peoples gathered together to thank God for life, food and friendship.

Like the Pilgrims, we have the blessings of life, food and friendship. Life is precious. In fact, it is a miracle. Think of the miracle of birth that takes place so often on the farm. Calves have been born and we have watched with joy and wonder as they struggled to get up and nurse. Now think about the lives of your family members. Sure, families often experience problems, but we are bound together by love. Remember the blessing of life this Thanksgiving.

Many farm families have their freezer stocked with a cow that was butchered on the farm, plus venison that gets taken in a successful hunting season. The produce of the garden may be stored in canning jars on pantry shelves or in frozen pints. Milk is as handy as the bulk tank. This is the milk you have produced with so much care this year, striving for high quality so that your neighbors and many others can enjoy and benefit from the quality food from your farm. Remember the blessing of food this Thanksgiving.

It was new friends that enabled the Pilgrims to survive. Good friendships are a blessing. At a Michigan State University Extension meeting recently to talk about farm stress, one woman told me of a friend that she made at the Farm Women’s Symposium. Though they live many miles from each other, they call each other frequently to encourage one another.  A friend in times of need is a friend indeed. It may be a fellow farmer, one of the professionals or service people you work with, or someone from church. Remember the blessing of friendship and value your friends.

At that meeting to discuss stress, one participant said it was difficult to go to sleep when all the problems keep running through his head. I encouraged him to refocus on blessings, rather than problems. It is not a simplistic answer that ignores the problems. I told him that my wife and I have a gratitude journal that we try to write in each evening after supper. It is good to remember what we have to be thankful for each day. Then we bow and pray and give thanks.

Giving thanks doesn’t make problems go away, but it changes our perspective on problems and reminds us that in spite of problems, we do have blessings. Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is for? It’s a time to remember the blessings we do have, and to bow and pray and give thanks. Maybe it’s not a year of abundance, but it is a year of blessings.

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