Dinner’s served: Eating with thoughtfulness

Once upon a time I lived in Dayton, Tennessee, in a little house in the woods with chickens and a blackberry patch on the east side. To the west, covering the ground was a blanket of the thickest, Narnia-esque moss I’ve ever been blessed to walk upon.

On this same moss, we killed our Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys.

In the summer of 2015, my family and I adopted two sweet turkey chicks from Tractor Supply and brought them home. We promptly named them Chris and Givens and solemnly acknowledged that they were bought for the holidays, not to be treated as pets. 

It was hard to not become attached to these two fluffy balls of wonder. After a month or so, we discovered that they were both females. Soon after, they started laying absurdly large eggs that ended up being stored conspicuously next to the smaller chicken eggs in the fridge.

As they grew in beauty and grace, they also grew in their capacity for meanness. Chris and Givens loved to chase my sisters and me around the house in those woods as we yelled in a strange mix of worry and glee, hurrying to avoid the swift pecks at our feet.

Such rude endeavors should have dissuaded our affection for them, but they made it no easier when the time came for Givens and Chris to be killed.

That day was a heavy one for me. My family typically buys turkeys, chicken breasts, ground beef and all other sorts of meat from the nearest Walmart; I don’t see or participate in how these animals are processed. To physically participate in the ending of the life of an animal is a different matter entirely.

I was summoned outside early that fated morning for this unenviable work. I helped my parents with the weighty task and then proceeded to run back to the warmth and safety of our kitchen. From then on, I carried a new weight of understanding, one that still informs my worldview today.

What I’ve come to understand is that my engagement in this act served to change my perspective for the better. Givens and Chris had wonderful — albeit somewhat sassy — lives living in the woods and eating feed to their hearts’ content. They lived comfortably, likely much more so than the animals whose meat you buy at the grocery store. According to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website, nearly 250 million turkeys are processed in the United States every year; TIME magazine reports that for Thanksgiving alone, about 45 million turkeys are killed. I eat meat almost every day, and unless you have dietary restrictions, you, like me, are likely sustained by an animal whose living face you never saw.

I’ve also learned to develop a greater degree of thankfulness for the life of a turkey that entertained me, but also served to sustain me. With careful thoughtfulness, I now practice a different kind of thankfulness: one that is informed by death. That is the nature of witnessing death. It brings meaning and gravity as its consequences.

Now, does that mean that we need to look all animals in the eye before we prepare them for dinner? Absolutely not, that is not only impossible as a college student, but also unnecessary. However, what we should gain from a healthy understanding of the nature of death is a greater appreciation for life.

As we approach the holiday season, consider pondering the meaning of the holidays that you love and celebrate. Thanksgiving originated as a celebration of bounty and harvest, and too often we forgo intentional thankfulness for the death that occurs in order that we might have turkey on the dinner plate.

All that said, here’s to fall leaves, moss beyond compare, gained understanding and the reminder that this world’s death will one day be but a shadow for those who trust in Christ.

Glen is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion

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