Love. Revere. Discover. Connect.

November 30, 2007: “Were You Not a Stranger? The Guest at Your Table”

Thanksgiving Divorce

A man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Thanksgiving and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.

“Pop, what are you talking about?” the son screams. We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the father says. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.”

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this,”

She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay,” he says, “they’re coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way.”

so I found Paul Wylie’s kindergarten class’s instructions
for baking the holiday bird. “Squishy brown stuff” is involved.
* Go to Kroger and buy a turkey for $7. If Kroger doesn’t have any, go to the farm.
* Catch and kill a turkey with an arrow. If you miss, shoot it with a gun.
* Take it home. Cut out the bones. Take out the brains. Cut off the head, feet, eyes, nose, neck, face, feathers and skin.
* Wash it in the bathtub. Put it in a pot. Let it dry off.
* Put squishy brown stuff all over it.
* Cook it in the oven. Get it real hot–10 degrees. Cook it for 35 minutes.
* Take it out of the oven. Let it cool down. Slice it into long pieces. Eat it! It will be real good. —
(“Tiny chefs give turkey-cooking instructions,” Frankfort, KY, LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, November 17, 1993)

I heard about one 4-year-old boy who was asked to return thanks before dinner. The family members bowed their heads in expectation and waited–and waited. After a long silence, the young fellow looked up at his mother and asked, “But if I thank God for the broccoli, won’t he know that I’m lying?”

Supposedly Suqanto said to Wampg when they saw the Pilgrim ship- More illegal immigrants; there goes the neighborhood.’

But sometimes it was difficult to be the Pilgrim church. You seem to be the one which is politically incorrect. More and more, the native American Community would be angry about the town ceremony, even the parade. Sometimes they would protest, be disruptive, because of of an illegal immigration that happened more than 300 years ago 350 years ago, and I will argue for a similar reason. People from a country that would not give them the freedom they wanted went to a place where they could find it. No one owned America, of course back then. Not like now, when there are people who think they do, even though their ancestors might have been illegal immigrants as well.

In Golden CO, where the famous Coors brewery stands, there is a statue downtown of Adolf Coors, who came to this country in the late 1800’s penniless and AS A STOW AWAY! Talk about illegal immigrants! But made it big, so he has a statue; perhaps also because he was of Northern European extraction which is the majority of this country’s leaders.

We’ve talked about Cesar Chavez who will also have statues one day, though I will guarantee controversy. Though he was born to Mexican parents in the US he was always desperately poor and migrant workers.

The growth of the agricultural community to one of the largest and productive in the world is based on migrant workers especially from Mexico and Central America. What many people don’t realize was that the US government created a program called “Bracero,’ to legally hire more than 4 million Mexican farm laborers came to work the fields of this nation, but to make sure they went back to Mexico after they were done.

An article says ‘Mexican peasants were hardworking, highly skilled agricultural laborers. Yet, despite the fact that two million peasants lost their lives in the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the government failed to provide them the resources needed to improve their lives. By the late thirties, when the crop fields began yielding insufficient harvest and employment became scarce, the peasant was forced to look for other means of survival.

The occurrence of this grave situation coincided with the emergence of a demand in manual labor in the U.S. brought about by World War II. On August 4, 1942, the U.S. and the Mexican government instituted the Bracero program. Thousands of impoverished Mexicans abandoned their rural communities and headed north to work as braceros. The bracero contracts were controlled by independent farmers associations and the “Farm Bureau.” The contracts were in English and the braceros would sign them without understanding their full rights and the conditions of employment. When the contracts expired, the braceros were required to turn in their permits and return to M’xico. The braceros could return to their native lands in case of an emergency, only with written permission from their boss.

By the 60’s, an excess of “illegal” agricultural workers along with the introduction of the mechanical cotton harvester, destroyed the practicality and attractiveness of the bracero program. The program under which more than three million Mexicans entered the U.S. to labor in the agricultural fields ended in 1964. The U.S. Department of Labor officer in charge of the program, Lee G. Williams, had described it as a system of “legalized slavery.” There still many crops, especially fruit, which can’t be harvested by machine, so backbreaking labor is still required and perhaps always will be.

I believe that it must be in both US and Mexico’s governments interest to continue this ‘legalized slavery,’ though ironically with ‘illegal slaves’-the migrant workers.

Who is the stranger? In almost all cultures there is a strong teaching about welcoming and hosting the stranger, going back to ancient times around the world. IN many countries (not necessarily ours’ that still exists. A belief that we were all strangers once, that our ancestors, especially in this country, left their countries of origin, almost always to find work, to find freedom, to find land, to find the opportunity to raise a family and support it through hard work. We cal it the American dream, but it is a universal one, I think. As Thanksgiving is a time to thank God, nature, to whom it may concern, for the harvest, we who live in supermarket worlds have lost touch with the soil and with the hard, long, and backbreaking work to get the harvest to the market.

Yet there have always been battles over land, especially the fertile land; there have been ‘man-made’ boundaries, that. ;et’s say in the Middle East, are still causing war. Viewed from Space for the first time by Humanity in the 1960s’ there were no borders seen! In a cute book called Children’s Letters to God, there is this one: ‘Dear God, Who draws the lines around the countries? Nan’

We are all connected, all part of the web of this and even other universes. Even those of all nationalities who have left the earth and traveled in space and looked back to see the earth so far away like a blue and white marble. The astronaut Edgar Mitchell said of his space journey to the moon and the viewing of: “We went to the moon as technicians; we returned as humanitarians.”

The Soviet Cosmonaut Alendra Alexandrov said: “And then it struck me that we are all children of the Earth. It does not matter what country you look at. We are all Earth’s children, and we should treat her as our mother.”

And said Sultan Bib Saman Al-Saud: ” The first day or so we pointed to all the countries. The third or fourth day we were pointing to continents. By the fifth day we were aware only of the earth.”

Some years ago, I was invited to be part of a memorial mass in San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, the oldest church Catholic church in the county, I think, a mass memorial for the illegal immigrants who had died trying to cross from poverty to plenty. They were not terrorists nor criminals, but men, women, and children, who were seeking a better life, who trying to leave poverty and hopelessness to come to a country so rich we pay athletes enough to support the entire country of Mexico!

I remember apologizing for being part of an insensitive country that we would have steak barbecue next door to a homeless shelter and never share, even though, we were getting fat because the ate so much and there was so much to go around!

I again thought of that insensitivity, no let’s call it cruelty, that would remove a nursing mother from her baby and put her in jail for the crime of trying to make a better life without following the rules. I saw at least 2 letters to the editor saying it was all the woman’s fault, and that she should have known better. I guess, it was the baby’s fault as well, for being born to a poor woman who was breast feeding. We react with horror when we read the stories of the killing of babies by soldiers in foreign countries, yet found a way to rationalize taking a nursing baby from its mother. Then I saw another ad in the New York Times by Tiffany jewelers showing pretty Xmas earrings out od diamonds that cost $250,000!

The poor are still getting poorer and the rich are getting tax breaks; The emperor has no clothes or morals and IS NOT divine, but surely he must be special because he’s rich.

I am deeply thankful for the great riches I have compared to many, and yet still worry, that so much of what we all own are built from a deck of credit cards that could come tumbling down at any time, leaving us homeless, leaving us the stranger, wondering who will take us in. Let us live our thankfulness by sharing with the guests who are always at our table, always invisible ones, perhaps the one who picked what we are about to eat. Let it be this Thanksgiving that we decide to make a difference.

Thank you to all those who have made such a difference in my life, now including you here! May we all learn to share is so many ways. May we still welcome and feed the stranger and give generously to the Guests At Our Tables. And may we always discover more for which and to whom we should be thankful.

A simple closing- peace, and the words for peace in Hebrew – Shalom, Arabic- Salaam, and a new termin Spanish. Muchos gracias is thank you very much, but one can make that even more profound and use a term that means more than more- Muchisimo gracias !