In developing gratitude, we do well to remember how intertwined our lives are. None of us lives in isolation—none of us can. We may think we’re pretty self-sufficient, but we drive on roads that others built and paid for, and we do so in cars developed and built by others. We use electricity powered by coal that others mined, converted to power in power plants we neither built nor run, and delivered to us over wires that others set in place and maintain. Thousands of people stand behind that little light switch we so causally flip.
Think, too, of all the collective knowledge from which we benefit. It stretches back over the generations, one discovery building on another, one insight shared bringing about another, one discipline serving as a foundation for yet another.
It is overwhelming to consider the astonishing number of other human beings whose collective ingenuity and hard work contribute to our present blessings. And we, too, contribute to the blessings of countless others.
For all this we can praise God, from whom all blessings first come. But the vast majority of the blessings He gives us come through others. Bless God, the first giver, but also be grateful to those who are the means of His blessings.
As a small exercise in gratitude, consider the simple blessing of standing in a supermarket and holding a can of peas. How many thousands are behind that can and your ability to stand in that market and buy it for just a dollar or so.
As you look at the can itself, consider the following:
Miners went into the earth to bring out the aluminum and tin you hold in your hand. Not only is it difficult work, it also depends on countless others going back in time who “discovered” the raw materials of the earth and learned how to separate and use them. Numerous technologies, much machinery, many inventors, and millennia of experience support the miners who drew the raw materials forth for that can. Thank you!
Those materials were then transported by rail. Consider those who labored to build the rails and those who still maintain them. Think about the inventors of the locomotive, those who built the railroad cars, and the those who extracted and refined the diesel fuel for the locomotive, and all those helped to get the ore to the metal producing plants. Thank you!
Consider the inventors of the process, those who built and maintain the plants that refine and produce the aluminum and tin that then go to the canneries by truck or rail. Thank you!
At the cannery, people and machines labored to produce the can you hold. Technologies and processes stretching back generations contribute to the swift production of the cans, including the one you hold. Thank you!
The canning plant is supplied with electricity that required thousands of men to erect poles and towers, run wires, and maintain them. Those wires trace back to a power plant with all of its technologies. Think of all who labored to build and maintain that plant. Coal miners went deep in the earth to mine the coal that sits in rail cars outside the power plant that supplies the power to the cannery that produced the can you hold. Thank you!
Yes, thousands contributed intellectual effort, physical labor, and money to make possible and to bring to you the can you now hold. Thank you!
Now consider the peas in that can:
The peas in the can are surely a gift of God’s nature, but are also the result of God’s gift of human genius. The bountiful crops of the modern era, a small portion of which you now hold in your hand, showcase human ingenuity in horticulture and agriculture. Careful genetic selection has made peas larger, tastier, and more disease- and insect-resistant. Agricultural developments have also led to crop yields that were unimaginable just decades ago. Fertilizers, insecticides, irrigation, crop rotation, farm equipment, and all the subspecialties and industries that developed and support them, have assisted in bringing to harvest the peas in that can you hold in your hand. Thank you!
What about the thousands who did research and development in the fields of horticulture and agriculture? We must also thank the farmers and agricultural workers, most of whom rise early every day and work in all sorts of inclement weather. They assume risks for failed crops and bad weather. They often find that their is a very fine line between success and failure, and their livelihood depends on staying on the right side of that line. Sadly, many farm hands and harvesters earn poor wages for their hard work. Yes, farmers and farm hands work hard. Thank you!
The peas also needed transportation, to the canneries and other processing areas. Once again, thank the builders of the roads and those who design, build, and maintain the trucks. Thank the truck drivers who often spend long, lonely hours on the road. Yes, thousands upon thousands, going back generations, have had a hand in the product you hold in your hand. Thank you!
Finally, consider the supply chain that brought this product to your local store:
Every store has a staff who order, stock, and monitor supplies so that necessary products are not out of stock. Scanners network with computers and point-of-sale terminals to monitor and order products. Be thankful for the developers of such technology. Thank you!
The store you are in was built by the construction industry and paid for by the owners of the food stores, who assume risk and overhead costs to run the stores. All sorts of technologies are involved from refrigeration to lighting, from shelving systems to product selection and quality control. Even the parking lot needs maintenance. Dozens of employees at the local store have had hand in that can of peas. Thank you!
Beyond the store are the local truckers, the warehouse employees, and every aspect of the warehouse from its buildings to its maintenance and operation. Hundreds more people have thus had a hand in this miraculous little can of peas. Thank you!
Beyond the warehouse is a complete distribution system for every product imaginable. Some products are transported over land by truck and/or train. Others are brought on cargo planes from every part of the world. All of these products need containers, shipping boxes, and all sorts of handling. Consider all the infrastructure necessary to maintain and supply those industries. Yes, thousands of people have had a hand in that can of peas. Thank You!
I have only scratched the surface here of the astonishing number of people who stand behind a small blessing: a can of peas in a supermarket. It is beyond amazing how interconnected our lives are. Thank the Lord; thank the laborers. Do your part and never forget your dependency on God and on your need for others. Ten thousand thanks could never be enough.
For all you do for me, thank you!
One Reply to “Ten Thousand Thanks Could Never Be Enough – A Meditation on the Astonishing Depth of Every Gift”
I’m reminded of the “I, Pencil” essay by Leonard Reed, although he wasn’t proposing we be grateful to anyone. He’s just making a case against a government-controlled economy and for pure capitalism: http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html
I hear arguments for and against all the time, but what I don’t hear is anybody (economist, politician, or man on the street) admitting that life is rough, unfair, and there will never be a perfect system comprised of imperfect people.
People always seem to be looking for the mythical perfect solution, rather than accepting and being grateful for the many amazing and beautiful aspects of what’s actually happening.
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