In this busy season, when do we have enough? Do we have enough decorations on the tree? Have we sent out enough cards? Have we included enough people in our holiday parties? Have we bought enough gifts? When have we done enough?

For a good perspective on this question, I would like to share Robin Wall Kimmerer’s experience as a teacher. Dr. Kimmerer was telling the Native American story about The Corn Spirit. The people always had enough corn to eat through the year. Then they got complacent and took it easy, neglecting care of the seeds and soil. That resulted in insufficient food to last through the winter.

Students in her New York classroom yawned. They failed to see any connection between themselves and the story of famine. However, one student who came from Turkey told Dr. Kimmerer this story.

The student told the story she learned from her grandmother back in Turkey. “In her house, we learned that everything we put in our mouths, everything that allows us to live, is the gift of another life. I remember one night she made us thank the rafters of her house and the wool blankets we slept in.”

“My grandma wouldn’t let us forget that these are all gifts, which is why you take care of everything, to show respect for that life. In my grandmother’s house we were taught to kiss the rice. If a single grain fell to the ground, we learned to pick it up and kiss it, to show we meant no disrespect in wasting it.”

The student told Dr. Kimmerer that when she came to the United States, the greatest culture shock she experienced was not language or food or technology, but waste.

To read more, go to BRAIDING SWEETGRASS by Robin Wall Kimmerer.