Give Thanks For Real This Year
A lot of us, even during this week of Thanksgiving, tend to take for granted the blessings in our lives. We might take a moment to reflect, but then the plates get passed around and the football game is on, and that is about as far as our meditation goes.
The movie, The Blind Side, has a scene when Big Mike is given a room at his new home. He comments, “I never had one of these before.” Leigh Anne Tuohy, his soon to be adoptive mother, asks “Your own room?” Mike replies, “A bed.”
My family watched this, and I could see how dumbfounded my boys all were. They could not even fathom going without something so commonplace as a bed.
On any given day, the average person could list many reasons why they are thankful. Steady job, roof over their head, enough food to eat, and family are among the blessings many would mention. Those are all great to have.
But what if you don’t?
As of the 2010 Census, there were over 47 million people living at or below the poverty line. That’s the combined population of Wyoming, Vermont, Washington D.C., North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Hawaii, Idaho, West Virginia, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Connecticut, Puerto Rico, Oklahoma, and Oregon. Plus about 400,000 more. When holidays come around, it can be especially stressful when there is barely enough to eke by day to day, never mind worrying about celebrating something.
Even more troubling are the children who are separated from family during the holidays. On any given day, there are roughly 400,000 kids in the foster care system. That is equivalent to every child in the Chicago public school system. These are kids with little reason to be thankful, much less a family with whom they can sit with and ponder what being thankful means. I recently wrote about one such child and his struggle to just find a family.
There are so many others that will be alone or wanting during the holidays. Our country has an elder population of over 40 million (aged 65+) as of 2010. It is estimated that over 30% of these people live alone. They may get together with relatives or friends on some occasions, but after decades of being around a family of some sort, many of these seniors now face almost every day by themselves.
Another hard pressed segment of the population is homeless veterans. There are over 58,000 in the United States. After serving their country and risking their lives, it is difficult for some service members to transition to the civilian world. Many have untreated psychological issues, often compounded by drug and alcohol addictions.
In one way or another, it would be very easy for most of us to find someone that has less to be thankful for than ourselves. Maybe even as close as next door.
Recently, Penn Jillette, the speaking half of the magic-comedy duo Penn and Teller, was discussing poverty in our country and what we should do about it. He doesn’t favor government intervention; he thinks we should work to help those in our communities ourselves. To paraphrase, he essentially said that since one in five people are poor, that leaves four that can help the one.
There is no need to feel guilty for being prosperous and dampen the holiday season. For my part, I am hoping that this year, as part of our appreciation for the great things going on in our lives, we can find a way to give hope to someone else.
So please, enjoy your family and friends and what you have made for yourself; you have earned that. Just remember to share that good fortune with someone else so their lives can be enriched as well. Whether through a cash donation or a donation of our time, everyone can find a worthy cause that needs help. What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than to give another a reason to be thankful?