One week from today we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. I have a friend who says Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. He suggests that because its defining message lacks overtones — political, cultural, religious — and its basic premise of giving thanks for what we have is universal.
I find it an agreeable sentiment. For many, modern society's simple pleasures, comforts, and longer life are a real blessing. This is not hyperbole. In 1920, 101 years ago, the average life span in the U.S. was about 54 years. Today, it's about 77 years. We are with loved ones much longer.
If you celebrate Thanksgiving in a traditional setting around a dining room table with family and friends, look around, take a deep breath, because the reasons to give thanks are in front of you.
However, as I have suggested in my previous Thanksgiving blogs, I've never believed that only giving thanks for one's blessing suffices, as valuable as these expressions are. Rather, we should think of our fellow citizens who might lack our good fortune. We are a part of a large community — the United States of America — and we can do more as part of our membership. I would suggest (and will continue to do so in the future) that not everyone is always as fortunate, and we can do more.
The week before Thanksgiving is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (HHWeek), with the singular purpose of helping those in need. The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homeless are the driving forces behind this effort.
The HHWeek organization's six-word message is simple, compelling and practical: Take Action, Host an Event, Volunteer.
The "take action” suggestion is the most straightforward approach to helping someone. Simply think of someone who might not have the opportunity to share a Thanksgiving meal or activities. Invite them to your Thanksgiving dinner. I have a friend who, when he was single, would casually mention to his church group that he wasn't going to his hometown for Thanksgiving. He never forgot the sudden array of invitations to Thanksgiving dinner. To this day, he fondly recalls those acts of kindness.
For those of you with even bigger hearts, don't pause after Thanksgiving. Remember the "Host an Event" and "Volunteer." When you take repeated action, it brings to life an old cliché, “the gift that keeps on giving.”
I work put to put these words – “host an event” and “volunteer” – to action through the community outreach and service events we host each month. And that's why I will continue to sponsor or partner with organizations that promote showing compassion and caring for our fellow citizens.
I always thought that Thanksgiving was for sharing and rejoicing over the gifts we have: family, friends, jobs, time for leisure and, most of all, a great democracy, however challenged at times, that allows us to enjoy our freedoms.
I can't say it enough: Reach out to help someone as we approach Thanksgiving and afterward, too. It might be someone who needs a meal or a place to stay. But, most of all, your effort might provide a boost to the spirit because the act of caring and a kind word go a long, long way.
That's my take, what's yours?