Thanksgiving ‘ it’s about sharing blessings
Thanksgiving time ‘ food ‘ gathering of friends and family ‘ warm hearths ‘ you know the Norman Rockwell setting. This is what we often assume is the norm for everyone and indeed our right as citizens of the 21st century.
Last week, another annual event took place all across our country: Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. What a truth-in-your-face kind of experience! The image of stuffed turkeys and stuffed people contrasted with the image of someone pushing a shopping cart carrying all their earthly belongings puts the whole condition in perspective.
Yesterday was the day scheduled for me to take a pill whose label reads, ‘Take on an empty stomach.’ Sometimes, I put it off a day or so because I have to have breakfast before I head out for a busy day because a hollow feeling in my stomach would make me grumpy and uncomfortable. I need my sugar levels brought up to speed in the morning. What must it feel like to go with an empty stomach for days at a time?
After my infinitesimal brush with hunger, I opened my refrigerator and peered into a cool chamber of food remedies that make my life all right again. I just ate an orange I found in the back of the drawer. What a martyr I felt like when instead of pitching it, I peeled off the rather withered skin and ate the less than fresh fruit.
Most of the time most of us operate on this self-involved level when it comes to what we think of as basic nourishment. We stew as to whether we have eaten too much red meat for our cholesterol levels or whether our body weight will coincide with the size of the clothes in our closets. Oh, we are a spoiled lot, and I am one of the first to plead guilty.
Such a tiny bit of discomfort, in light of what millions suffer every day. The U.S Agriculture Dept.’s annual survey of food security, released last week, shows that more than 36 million adults and children struggled against hunger last year. These are people who either didn’t have enough money for food or access to enough food aid to maintain active healthy lives. I can’t even imagine in light of my own experience with hunger what their pain must be like.
How would I feel if I had to tell my children that even though they said they were too hungry to go to sleep, I had to send them to bed without dinner? And what about if that bed was a sleeping bag wedged up under an overpass on Interstate 65 from Louisville? How would I feel if as I stood in line at the grocery store check-out line and was bombarded with magazines covers proclaiming the wonders of updated kitchen cabinets and bathroom sinks and knew that I had dressed in a local church basement to come to the store? That my home was whatever shelter still had an open bed after I had stood in a long line? How embarrassed would I be to even admit to myself that I was among the needy?
We are going through uncertain and changing times in our world these days. Nonprofits that serve our communities are trembling at the inadequacy of their budgets. The ranks of the poor increase as people lose their jobs, have no health insurance, default on their home mortgages and stare in bewilderment at the future. Donations to food banks this year are even more essential, but people have less to spend at the grocery store for themselves or for others. What must it feel like to ask yourself, ‘Will I be giving at the neighborhood food drive this year or receiving?’
Let’s face it, sharing and giving can be just as self-serving as it is altruistic. When do people rise up and lash out? When they feel at the end of their rope ‘ left out ‘ with nothing to lose. Think of the great uprisings in our history. People who feel a part of the community don’t tear it to shreds. You can’t feel a part of something that makes you stand outside in the cold and gaze at the consumption inside.
It is wise to remember that the struggles we face today are not so different from that of our ancestors. Historically, we have seen the Thanksgiving celebration as a response by a weary community struggling for survival.
President Lincoln knew this when, during the Civil War, he declared the last Thursday in November to be a national holiday for the celebration of Thanksgiving. He knew giving thanks together could help heal the wounds of war and unite people no matter what their differences.
In 1941, FDR changed the date for Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday in November to help stimulate a struggling economy by providing more shopping days before Christmas. This year, 2008, we wrestle with many of the same issues ourselves as we look to the holidays.
This is a rich planet with resources drawn from the natural environment that can provide all that we need. Couple that capacity with the innovation, skill and determination of mankind and we should have a winning program. It all starts with helping our neighbors, the ones living in the house next door or down the street.
Yes, this is Thanksgiving time. Let’s give thanks that we have an opportunity to reduce the pain among us. Maybe we can share whatever we have. Isn’t that what true Thanksgiving is all about, being thankful for our blessings, no matter how great or small, and sharing them with others?