It was amazing.
The reason we'd paid a visit was simple. As vegetarians, Thanksgiving is a time when we look for vegan turkey substitutes, particularly when we visit our families. (Every vegetarian knows this. You learn to bring your own food. It's just being considerate.) And Whole Foods has a number of great of great substitutes. We chose two Gardene turkey rolls. (If you're ranking Vegan substitutes, i recommend any Gardene product, they're all awesome. Yves has good stuff as well.) At the checkout, the magazines in the rack were very different from the ones we'd seen at Loblaws an hour earlier. The Economist. Toronto Life. GQ. Esquire.
Yeah, it was odd. But very cool.
Still, even as I looked at the other customers, I felt something like a twitch. At one point, I leaned over to Bethany and said, 'Do you think everyone here is rich? Or do you think there are a few people here like us?'
I've spent the past four months working as a house husband and full-time writer. (My wife got a new job, and we do well enough with her busy week for me to look after everything else.) I do all the cleaning and cooking and shopping, and after hours doing that, I write for the rest of the day. As of yet, I'm not being paid for my writing. I expect that to change this year.
Still, I get twitches. What would it be like to be able to shop at Whole Foods all the time? To not have to worry about income? To be able to shop wherever I wanted and not think twice about cost?
I thought about that all the way home, and by the time I pulled into our driveway, I felt a twinge of shame. My wife and I both own a vehicle. That places us in the top eight percent of the richest people in the world. And everything we have, everything, is a gift.
I didn't choose to have educated parents who impressed upon me the importance of it. I didn't choose to grow up in a home with two parents who have been married for 47 years. I didn't choose to grow up in a home where I never worried about having enough food or a bed to sleep on or parents who didn't love me.
I didn't choose any of it. And I didn't earn it.
It wasn't my hard work that landed me in Canada, one of the richest countries in the world. I was born here. I did nothing to deserve to grow up in a quiet neighbourhood that emphasized family, that welcomed my friends, that gave me memories I will cherish forever.
Thanksgiving is one of those times, whether we're religious or not, where we get an opportunity to be grateful for what we've been given. It's easy to compare our lives to those around us and find fault. We all have families with quirks, because no one is perfect. And no one has a perfect life. The thing is, that's never going to change. The only thing we can change is our perspective.
Two of my neighbours are single moms. I know the daily struggle for them because they've talked about it. Their life is hard. No, they aren't perfect and they've made some bad choices, but when you listen to how they grew up, those choices seem almost inevitable.
And I haven't had to deal with any of that.
I am so lucky.
This weekend, when you gather with your family, and that one annoying in-law or extended family member starts complaining and makes you want to tear your hair out, just walk away. Or better, talk about how lucky you are. How lucky we all are. My wife grew up in Ethiopia as a missionary kid, and she saw more poverty in a week than most of us will ever see in our lifetime. Her family tradition, and mine, was always to invite anyone over who had no place to go.
This one day, we forget about our differences and try to include one another.
It's a beautiful thing.
Don't make the mistake that I did. Appreciate what you have, and see if there's anyone that might be welcome at your table this weekend.
Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.