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Grilled, Roasted, or Fried?

Stop. Don’t think food. A little challenging after a Thanksgiving feast, I know. Instead think people. Human conditions and experiences. Here’s an example: after months of working in a natural food store and learning about what is done to turkeys, chickens, and other animals, I decided I didn’t want to put that in my body. I went home for Thanksgiving and as we all sat down to the overabundance my mother had prepared, my father turned and grilled me: “What are you going to eat? Why wouldn’t you eat turkey? Don’t you see how much trouble your mother has gone to?”

Or another example could be a gathering of family and friends on a special occasion, say, a birthday or a wedding rehearsal dinner. Whether planned or spontaneous, someone stands up and commands the attention of the crowd. A story follows that is usually humorous but also revealing about the person(s) at the center of the celebration. We call it a roasting and it’s generally harmless.

We’re all now in that somewhat insane stretch of time that spans from Halloween to New Year’s Day. We bake. We shop. We host. We cook. We clean. We travel. We juggle. We ship. We eat. And if, by the grace of God, we arrive at a new calendar year, we collapse and declare with deep sincerity that we’re fried. Nerves frazzled. Energy depleted. Bank accounts diminished. Motivation minimal. We’re just exhausted. We’re fried.

Oh, how we treat ourselves and others of our kind! Yes, we sometimes have the appropriate standing to grill another person – a teenager or a spouse or an elderly parent perhaps. And yes, it is sometimes a jolly good occasion to not only toast but also roast one dear to us. And yes, we believe that we need to do all that we’re expected to do or that we think we need to do during the concluding months of the calendar year dotted with holiday festivities. But we would do well to take utmost care as we grill and roast and slide toward fried.

The guidance to “love your neighbor as yourself” is found in many religions and philosophies throughout the world and has been throughout history. It’s a noble standard of conduct. And it can be one of the most difficult to live into. The next time we find ourselves in a gathering of others and we are tempted to chew someone up and spit them out, consider what that would be like to be the one at the center of the table being sliced and diced as mealtime entertainment. Focus on what’s for lunch, not who’s for lunch.

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