Taking Things for Granted

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by Hayden Hollingsworth

That’s a phrase that often has negative connotations but there are some things that we ought to be able to take for granted.  When I turn on a faucet, I know there will be clean water.  In the United States few need bottled water.  Flip a light switch and there will be illuminations.  Turn the key in the ignition and the car will start.  There are other things that we should give a little more thought to before just assuming that’s the way things will always be.  Take grocery shopping, for example.

A large supermarket, I have been told, stocks about 50,000 items.  The average distance traveled from production to distribution point is said to be1500 miles. When the doors automatically open we can be assured that whatever we need in the way of food and staples will be there.  The dried and canned goods may have a shelf life of years; frozen foods may be good for months, but think about the perishables.

Those bananas from Central America; how did they get to the shelves just the day before they were ripe enough?  The lettuce, the fresh green vegetables, and the fruits without a blemish . . . in only a few days they will be beyond their prime.  I don’t think the grocer just assumes they will all be sold, but has to plan his inventory so there’s no waste.

Moving on down the aisle we get to the cheeses.  Not much of a problem there; they get better with age, but the dairy products are another matter.  In some markets, the “Sell by date is weeks away, but in others you have to look at the back of the rack to find one that will last out the week.  I have asked dairy managers why that is so and I get little information.  “I just rotate the cartons and keep the racks full” is the standard reply.  It must have something to do with the processing.  I wonder if those with a date six weeks hence glow in the dark as soon as the refrigerator door is closed.

Take a look at the frozen shrimp.  How long has it been since they were in their Asian farm pond?  Of one thing you can be certain:  it’s very difficult to get fresh shrimp from our shores. The red meats come next and the variety of cuts extends the length of several first downs. There are more beef cattle, chickens, and turkeys than there are people in this country.  It’s a good thing the livestock doesn’t know what lies in store for them but we know they will be safe food for our families.

Benjamin Disraeli once said, “If you would develop a taste for sausage or the law, don’t watch either of them being made.”  When you get to the processed meat products, don’t spend too much time with that thought; just buy the bologna and move on to the bakery.

Some of that is prepared in the larger markets and the fragrance follows the freshness.  I suspect in the next generation, there will be few who can match the quality of the mass produced bakery products.

When we get to the wine and beer section, there is a dizzying array of selections.  Hard to imagine the logistics of keeping those coolers and shelves filled, but at least, they will last a long time.  The soft drink lanes . . . even more choices.

Walk up and down the aisles twice of any supermarket and you will have covered a mile.  If you take a person from a third world country into such a place for the first time, they will, I can assure you, be speechless.  Even after years, they still look in awe at the unlimited quantities, remembering all too vividly the struggle to grow food in their homeland.

So we take for granted that the food will be there, that anything we want will be available, that it will be fresh and it will be safe.  It’s a good thing to remember that the vast majority on this planet do not enjoy such blessings.  A swallow of water is a risk for most people in the world. On your next trip to the supermarket, try to envision the shelves totally bare and think about how to put food on the table that evening.  And to that dreary thought, do you worry about roadside bombs on the way home?

Blessings should not be taken for granted!  Someday, things may be quite different.