Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December in Fremont!

Bins of sweet good Granny Smith apples and deep orange Fuji persimmons are picked and resting in a cool toolshed. We have way more than we can use and I enjoy giving fruit to people who don't have any. I gave a big box of ripe quinces to a friend in the Afghan Market …in that culture quince are prized for their medicinal value. Six nights of heavy frost have pretty well taken care of any tender plants in the garden… and so now it is the season of cutting dead stems away on my perennial flowers to encourage next seasons growth. New sprouts are already forming. A great pile of prunings is forming and soon I will run it all through the chipper to make wonderful sweet smelling mulch. We are harvesting the very last few tomatoes, lettuce and herbs are still OK, also greens for cooking. Fruit tree pruning comes next in January. Nights are cold.

Thanksgiving was a time for reconnecting with family. Sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, family friends, and we who have melded into the family by marriage. Everyone has changes in their lives, there are funny stories to tell, sadness to share, adventures to describe. Kids have pushed ahead to new challenges, and there are burdens that we must bear together. If wouldn’t be thanksgiving without a turkey to carve – white meat here – dark meat there. Stuffing, gravy, peas, sweet potatoes, and Pie (Apple, Berry, Pumpkin)…

Kitchen full of cooks, laughter coming from the living room… Football on the TV …Good hard cider and wine to enjoy. There was a sharing of books, fruit, leftovers, and good ideas. Most families also has their own unique ways of celebrating holidays…we do…

This week as I visited student teachers, I travelled into neighborhoods where folks had a much different thanksgiving. … California currently has 12.4 % unemployment (one out of every eight people). Average unemployment benefits for a family are less than $300 a month. Imagine feeding a family and covering rent with that amount! Imagine choosing between supper of Ramin noodles or boiled beans… adding a little spam would be a treat. And what of the ones that don’t have enough money to pay rent … Where do they go?

Today, 18% of Americans who work full-time are below the poverty line ($17, 000 for a family of four). The great curiosity for me is why poverty in America is so invisible to those of us who live comfortably. I see someone asking for a handout occasionally, but I am not aware of vast numbers of hungry people in my neighborhood , my shopping center, or grocery store. I see groups of men hanging out in front of my building-supply store hoping for a days work, when I drive past a food pantry the lines seem to extend farther each time. Hunger is hunger where ever in the world it is found. It is especially hard on Children. …here in California or anywhere.

Why is the American middle class in decline? Profit making decisions that led American companies to export jobs to China? …The increased efficiency of tools that require fewer human workers? The decline of strong labor unions? Borrowing excess money on a personal and national level? The greed of banks and financial institutions? Spending 3 trillion dollars on the Iraq war? Selfish government actions that put party above the good of the people? All of the above?

· 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.

66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.

· 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.

· The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

One of my favorite slogans is still “Think globally, act locally” . I can’t solve the problem –All I can do is reach out a little more to the hungry. I can support the local food kitchen, This Christmas perhaps I will adopt a family through my church, I can drop a dollar into a Salvation Army bucket every time I pass one. I can support the local school canned food drive… If that is all I can do to reach out, then I am doing something to make the world a better place-and that’s good – but it makes me realize that perhaps I can do even more. I remember too...hunger and deprivation don’t go away when Christmas is over.