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A season for gratitude

It’s the season for giving thanks. You’ll probably be receiving advice delivered via social and other media suggesting that you express gratitude for friends and family who love you, for neighbors who lend a helping hand, for members of the armed services who defend our freedoms, for first responders who answer emergency calls, for doctors and nurses who tend to the sick and injured, and for teachers who open doors of opportunity and wonder. The list is impressive, and the people who fill all these roles deserve our thanks.

So do many others who are often overlooked.

For example, although my husband and I routinely give thanks to God when we sit down to a meal, the food we consume reaches our table only after passing through many hands. For these people, I am also grateful. The long list includes farmers and agricultural workers, packagers, inspectors, truck drivers, and retail workers, plus a wide array of others who may not be so obvious, including equipment manufacturers, employees of financial institutions, and even the laborers who pave and paint roads. In addition, my ability to prepare a meal hinges on the people who compile cookbooks or who post recipes online and the factory hands who assembled my stove, oven, microwave, and refrigerator. Setting the table and cleaning up afterward lengthens the growing chain of people to whom I owe thanks for my dinner.

Sometimes after dinner, my husband and I enjoy a movie. I am grateful for the individuals whose efforts make the film possible. There are the actors and actresses, of course, plus such prominent players as producers, directors, and screenwriters. The movie-making process depends on hundreds more. My personal way of honoring all who help bring the experience to me, whether at home or in the theater, is to watch the end credits. The names usually go by too fast to read each one individually, but I do my best to notice as many as I can. I don’t even know what some of the job titles mean: Foley artist? Best boy? Grip? Gaffer? Render wrangler? By the talents of these craftspeople, my life is made better.

When I sit at my desk, I realize that someone made my chair. And my desk. When I look through the window and watch birds in the backyard, I realize that someone made the glass that lets me see outside. Other people built my house, poured the sidewalk, and planted my favorite tree.

According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 150 million people participate in our nation’s workforce. Miners, loggers, construction workers. Makers of wood, metal, and electronic products. People who assemble and repair automobiles. Garment and textile workers. Real estate professionals. Waste management workers. Waiters, waitresses, and hospitality staff members. All these people and countless others have touched my life in meaningful ways. I give thanks for all of them.

Circumstances often prevent me from expressing my appreciation in person. I realize that not one single individual listed in a movie’s credits knows I watched his or her name scroll by. Even if someone did know, I imagine they would view my ritual as a meaningless gesture. However, watching the credits serves to remind me that the price of my admission ticket or DVD purchase contributed to the employment and well-being of hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of people. When I pay a fair price for goods and services, I honor the worth of the men and women responsible. My options in the voting booth allow me to consider which candidates may make a tangible contribution toward respecting others and which policies support efforts to secure equitable wages, provide access to health care and education, and protect the integrity of the environment for everyone’s children. Even paying taxes gives me an opportunity to consider the ways all our lives are interconnected and interdependent and to envision the better world we can create by joining hands and working together.

I appreciate all the people whose lives touch mine in positive ways, even those I do not know personally. Thank you for all you do.

KAREN BELLENIR has been writing for The Farmville Herald since 2009. Her book, Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia features a compilation of her columns. It is available from PierPress.com. You can contact Karen at kbellenir@PierPress.com.