Thank You Cooks, Thank You Seeds
On retreat, I appreciate the opportunity to slow down at meal time. During my recent retreat, I paused before my first bite of each one of the 47 meals, and said thank you to the many beings who made the meal possible.
Thank you cooks.
At the retreat center, all of the cooks work without pay to provide 100 retreatants 3 meals a day. They offer this work generously, an offering to support the teachings and our practice. At the end of the retreat, I have an opportunity to offer dana – a generous gift in honor of the cooks’ generous giving. To prepare my heart for this, I took a moment before each meal to offer the dana of gratitude to everyone and everything who helped prepare my meal.
Thank you farmers.
I come from farmers, Indiana born and raised, land of corn and green beans. My grandfather was the last in our family to farm. My dad and his 8 siblings grew up working on the family farm until my grandfather died young of a heart attack; my dad was only 12. When my grandfather died at age 56, the neighbors started farming his small acreage. Big agribusiness started to take over the Midwest; small family farms were no longer profitable. Now the Indiana landscape is littered with signs, every field marked as Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, or Monsanto – a marker of whose seeds you buy, corporate seeds that are genetically modified so a new batch has to be purchased year after year.
Thank you pickers.
After learning the history of the United Farm Workers and Cesar Chavez, I can no longer eat produce without connecting to the inspiring struggles of migrant workers. Brave workers banding together for five years for the Delano Grape Strike, so that they and their fellow coworkers could have a livelihood that respected their basic human dignity – basics like toilets in the fields, clean drinking water, rest periods, and banning pesticide spraying while workers were in the field. Migrant justice isn’t just a historical footnote; I continue to be inspired by present day struggles of immigrant workers, including the work to pass a California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
Thank you truck drivers.
When I lived in a remote mountain town in Colorado, I became aware of how far my food traveled to reach me. Anything that couldn’t be grown in our high desert climate – which was just about everything – was trucked in from farms across the US, Mexico, and South America. I wonder if produce truck drivers face the same challenges as truck drivers at the ports, who get stuck in long lines with no bathroom facilities, no pay for the hours they spend sitting there breathing in toxic exhaust fumes, and no union to protect them when they speak out against injustice.
Thank you dishwashers. Thank you composters. Thank you pot washers.
At my last restaurant job, I sometimes worked the quiet shift. Just three of us late in the day – a white female cashier (that was me), a white male cook, and a Mexican woman who washed the pots, cleaned the floors, and emptied the trash. At the retreat center, I watched as the mostly white, seemingly affluent yogis washed dishes, emptied the compost, and wiped down tables. I wondered how many of us held these jobs outside our retreat practice. As I washed pots from each evening’s meal, my back aching from bending over the sink to scrub, I wondered how many restaurant dishwashers in the US had access to the Buddha’s teachings of the Middle Way. Have we constructed a path of the Upper Middle Way instead?
Thank you seeds. Thank you soil. Thank you water. Thank you sun.
Despite all the harm we have done, the earth continues to feed us. Sometimes I wonder: When will the seeds go on strike? When will the soil divest from its long-term investments in our survival? When will the water demand reparations for pollution? When will the sun boycott our skies?
Thank you to all the causes and conditions, named and unnamed, seen and unseen, that came together to present this bowl of food to me. May it nourish my practice. May my practice serve the liberation of all beings.
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[Photo by David Swart]