The roots of this gratitude are sunk deep in the land. In the early farming days of the United States—way, way back when some of the founding fathers thought that the U.S. would become a utopia of farmers—this was the time of year when most of the crops had been harvested, the fruits were gathered, the cider pressed, the preserves shelved, and the meats smoked, salted and stored, a cornucopia of foods to carry folks through the long winters. Seasons of hard work had paid off with abundance. People would survive the winter to begin the cycle again in spring. Thanks be!—and therein is the heart of “Thanksgiving”.
In modern times, very few of us farm. We accumulate abundance in other ways. In office cubicles, in retail, in healthcare, in the arts, in manufacturing—a patchwork quilt of occupations. But whatever we do, the great majority of us, even in difficult times, have some measure of abundance, some reserves to celebrate and share with our loved ones as the cold winds begin to blow.
As Charles Dickens wrote in his winter ghost story “A Christmas Carol,” it is during this season of plenty and celebration that “want is most keenly felt” by those without means. The elderly, the poor, the unemployed and underemployed, the disenfranchised, the disabled, and, of course, their children, struggle just as hard during the holiday season as any other time of the year, and do so amidst gleaming Christmas stars and Chanukah candles.
So as you prepare your Thanksgiving shopping list, perhaps add some items to donate to a local food drive. As you set aside Christmas funds, perhaps include a few dollars to donate to a local charity. As you buy holiday presents, perhaps buy a few toys or games for a children’s Christmas charity. As you plan your holiday itinerary, include a few hours to volunteer at a shelter or food bank or soup kitchen, or to sing Christmas carols at a senior center. And in these endeavors, involve your kids or grandkids. Model generosity. Make giving a lifelong habit for the next generations.
Giving doesn’t have to be big. Keep it simple. Sometimes the smallest gestures, in the aggregate, make the greatest impact. If most of us just give a little of our money or our possessions or our time this holiday season, we can, together, bring light and joy to those for whom “want is most keenly felt”.
Enjoy your time with your family and friends, dear readers. I wish you continued abundance in all things. And, always, an abundance of generosity.