No shortage of abundance for most of us

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving is arguably the nation's oldest holiday, extending back to 1621 when the religious separatist Pilgrims held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest.

It actually wasn't an official national holiday until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving.

Later, in a move more commercial than spiritual, President Franklin Roosevelt designated the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving, in an effort to encourage earlier holiday holiday shopping in the event, like this month, of a fifth Thursday.

Like everything in the United States, the holiday has grown far beyond what the Pilgrims could ever have imagined.

The numbers are staggering.

This year, 272 million turkeys -- nearly one per person -- were raised in the United States, weighing 7.2 billion pounds and valued at $3.2 billion.

The proportion is even higher in Nebraska, where 4.5 million turkeys are raised, compared to fewer than two million people.

And Nebraska ranks only in the top 15 turkey producing states. The leader is Minnesota, with 46 million birds.

But don't forget the sides.

Wisconsin is expected to produce 390 million pounds of cranberries, with a total of 690 million pounds produced nationally.

North Carolina leads in sweet potato production with 702 million pounds, and Illinois produced 492 million pounds of pumpkins last year.


If you like cherry pie, Michigan produced almost all of the 294 million pounds of tart cherries grown in the United States this year.

Kansas and North Dakota produced 30 percent of the nation's 1.8 billion bushes of wheat, the essential ingredient of bread, rolls and pie crust, and Wisconsin produced 310,200 tons of green beans for the nation's 841,280 tons, much of it winding up in green bean casseroles.

Clearly, there's no lack of abundance in the United States of America.

Yes, we are paying a little more for the gasoline to get to Grandma's house, and we have plenty of other troubles to worry about, but for the vast majority of us, a shortage of food, fuel, clothes and warm shelter is not an issue.

As we pause to give thanks for everything we have, let's consider what we can do for those who are less fortunate.

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