Thanksgiving is a time to have gratitude — but it is much more than sharing a meal

thanksgivingTurkeyOn Thanksgiving, we speak about gratitude, but what do we really understand about it?

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, coupled with a readiness to show appreciation for, and to return kindness to, another person. In my mind, “returning kindness to another person” is the big fail for most people celebrating Thanksgiving, when on this day alone, more than 45 million innocent turkeys are sacrificed at the dining table. You may counter, “But a turkey is not a person.” Ok, so let’s look at what it means to be a “person.” The wiki dictionary puts it this way:

A person is a being, such as a human, that has certain capacities or attributes constituting personhood, which in turn is defined differently by different authors in different disciplines, and by different cultures in different times and places.

It clearly states: “a being, such as a human…” It does not say, a person is a human. The author of the definition then goes on to dilute the meaning further by saying that a “person” is defined differently by people according to time and place. Convenient but not helpful.

The Latin word persona was originally used to denote the mask worn by an actor. From this, it was applied to the role they assumed, and, finally, to any character on the stage of life, to any individual. The classic definition is that given by Boethius in “De persona et duabus naturis”, c. ii: Naturæ rationalis individua substantia (an individual substance of a rational nature).

A turkey is certainly an individual substance of a rational nature. And as the Latin persona indicates, a turkey body is a type of “mask” for the soul within.

Granted, the people that eat all those birds don’t recognize turkeys to be sentient beings worthy of respect. And therein lies the root of the problem. Vegan and animal rights activists can present a host of valid reasons for not eating a turkey on Thanksgiving, but if someone does not understand the spiritual essence of a non-human animal, then all their good arguments fall on deaf ears.

Most people have lost touch with their innate spiritual essence beyond the confines and limitations of a human form. We identify ourselves by some country, political group, religious order, or race, but in essence, all such designations only apply to our body and not our soul — our true self — and so they are false personas and not the “real man behind the mask,” so to speak.

Sadly, the modern education system and social protocols, force us to identify as such, if not to make our lives easier to manage. But in sacrificing for such convenience, we have given away our true power as individual souls — parts and parcels of a Supreme Godhead. This same truth applies to every living being on the planet, turkeys included. Nothing can be animated without the presence of consciousness, and consciousness is a symptom of the presence of a soul. Some soul, for the time being, has to be a turkey, just as some soul has to don the “mask” of a dog, or a cat, rabbit, horse, or pig, etc. Where there is life, there is the presence of a soul.

Most animal rights activists, vegans, and vegetarians are afraid to talk about spirituality, believing that to do so would make them appear religious and they may marginalize some of their audience. However, spirituality is not synonymous with religiosity. Traditionally, spirituality refers to a process of re-formation of the personality. The term spirit means “animating or vital principle in man and animals.” It is derived from the Old French espirit which comes from the Latin word spiritus (soul, courage, vigor, breath) and is related to spirare (to breathe).

Religion, and for that matter, holy days like Thanksgiving, when devoid of spirituality, are no better than the gathering of “tribes” at your local football match. The passion and sentiments are entirely mundane and short-lived and do not impact the heart on the deepest level.

To honor the spirit of Thanksgiving, we absolutely must honor the essence of life (spiritus) itself. Every living thing has a service to perform, and it is not simply to be our meal.


The engine of life is linkage. Everything is linked. Nothing is truly self-sufficient. Just as water and air are inseparable, so too is the interdependence of all living things. We are all united in life for our survival on Earth. Sharing is everything. This recognition of the oneness of all life is the basis of a truly humane society and Thanksgiving should be a day that we honor this oneness — oneness in spiritual equality.

Food for Life Global was founded for this very purpose — to establish spiritual equality and unite the world through the liberal sharing of pure food. On Thanksgiving, we offer our heartfelt gratitude to all our donors and volunteers that have helped us build this international organization that now serves up to 2 million plant-based meals daily.


For more on the topic of spiritual equality, see:


Paul Turner

Paul Turner

Paul Turner co-founded Food for Life Global in 1995. He is a former monk, a veteran of the World Bank, entrepreneur, holistic life coach, vegan chef, and author of 6 books, including, FOOD YOGA, 7 maxims for soul happiness.

MR. Turner has traveled to 72 countries over the last 35 years helping to establish Food for Life projects, train volunteers, and document their success.

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