Moderation in the Midst of Plenty
by Pastor George Van Alstine

I guess we all have our particular Thanksgiving challenges around the consumption of food. The story of the First American Thanksgiving in 1621, featuring familiar characters such as Squanto and Miles Standish, includes the built-in tension between the colonists’ narrow escape from near starvation and the temporary bounty provided by the Native American tribespeople. Both the settlers and the Indians would know great hardships over the next few years.

I guess most people have a struggle with eating too much, feeling stuffed, feeling guilty, then promising to begin a new diet. That’s not a big issue with me, since I learned years ago that it’s best to go easy on the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, greens, cranberry sauce and the other main-course goodies. That allows me to keep some stomach space for pies.

But that’s my problem – pies. I love traditional American pies. I love them all equally and play no favorites. I have to make sure that each one has the same opportunity to please my palate as the others do.

This Thanksgiving I found myself courting three beautiful young pies at the same time: a berry pie (made by my wife Judy), a sweet potato pie (made by my daughter Laura) and a pecan pie (made by Robert DeV). Each one was a great treat, and my challenge was getting the most enjoyment out of the total pie experience.

You may say, “That’s easy; put a small slice of each on your plate and go at it,” but that only proves you’re not a pie-lover. The flavors of these particular pies are delicate; they tend to cancel each other out. Sometimes they go on arguing with each other in my stomach. So I have to space my little slices, separating the flavors by a half-hour or more and by some family games and a few cups of coffee.

I did all that on Thanksgiving Day, but alas, my pie consumption problems were only beginning. Everybody abandoned me afterwards, Laura and Tianna to their home, Sean to his own private Robert DeV pecan pie, and Judy to her Spartan pattern of not eating unhealthy things like pies. This meant that the remaining portions of all three pies are all mine to eat and savor — in a responsible way. I’m still working on this sensitive project, four days after Thanksgiving.

On Friday morning, I got my cup of coffee and stood in front of the three pies. I said to Judy, “I think I’m in heaven.” Then I corrected myself, “No, I think I’m in purgatory.” The angst of choosing which pie to eat was overwhelming. It’s not just a choice between three flavors; the decision between the three pie-makers, three of my favorite people, was a heavy responsibility.

So, right now, about 9 PM on Sunday night, I still have about one-third of each pie to gracefully consume. I’m considering which one I want to have with my coffee tomorrow morning. And a terrible thought comes to my mind: How many toddlers in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are crying with empty stomachs while I’m agonizing about which of my glorious pies to eat? Somehow I’ve lost my pie appetite. (Temporarily.)