Why should we have a Thanksgiving Day? Or maybe we should ask, why do we have only one?
In this country, you don’t have to look far to find people who regularly go hungry. And for many who don’t have to go hungry, they might not be much better off than those who do. You see, there are those who can’t think much about low-fat, no-fat, cholesterol-free, and vitamin enriched food items because the food they can afford is at the bottom of the consumer totem pole. That’s why they can afford it.
It’s not difficult to find people who have no car, and no home other than the streets. It’s easy to find those who have barely enough money to occasionally shop at thrift stores, or make use of public transportation, or visit the local Laundromat.
There are thousands of children in America who have no decent coat to wear to school in the winter and only one decent pair of shoes — if that — for the whole year. Many of these same kids live in homes where there may be little more than cardboard or a sheet of battered plywood to protect against the onslaught of a brisk Arctic wind.
Right here in the United States you can find families lucky enough to have a home but they have no television, no radio, no stereo, no refrigerator, no washer or dryer, no microwave, possibly no stove, and definitely no computer. In these same United States, there are those who have no telephone, no electricity or gas utilities, no running water, and no indoor plumbing. They may also have a roof that leaks rain, walls that leak air, and floors that offer a view of the ground below. And that’s only if they have a floor. There are homes in this nation where the floor and the ground are the same.
There are a great number of people in this country who have no health insurance, no life insurance, no car insurance, no Medicare, no Medicaid, and no cash for dentistry, pre-natal care, emergency medical treatment, or routine trips to the doctor or pharmacist.
And yet in this same country, you have people who don’t really know what it means to be hungry and to be clueless about how the next food will come. They cannot conceive of what it means to be cold with no hope for warmth except perhaps shared body heat and the chance that you can find or gather enough assorted fabric items to insulate against the cold.
There are people who can’t imagine having to walk farther than from the front door to the car and back. There are those who only shop at thrift stores for fun, or only go to a coin-op laundry when the washer at home is broken.
Many folks have more clothes and shoes than they can wear, and enough appliances, electronic gear, and other conveniences to supply another family with one of each without depriving themselves. They enjoy a living environment that is tightly sequestered against the ravages of weather, and the realities of an unprivileged world far different than the one in which they have the freedom to live.
There are those who have access to all that doctors and hospitals have to offer with little or no concern for how to pay for it. These same folks often have more health maintenance latched inside their medicine cabinets than others can acquire if they beg, borrow or steal.
In spite of this great discrepancy between the “Haves” and the “Have-nots,” there are those among the “Haves” who don’t realize how privileged they are or how easy it is to lose their advantages. And worst of all, they have no idea how to be thankful.
A “Thanksgiving Day” is a wonderful observance. But the great sadness for me is that most people think it only comes once a year and that it has everything to do with over-indulgence and nothing to do with giving.
The best thanks giving is whatever we can give with joy from the bounty of our privileges with no need to be recognized or thanked for our gifts. The second best thanks giving is the thanks we give out of the sheer joy of knowing how blessed we are — even if we have comparatively little to begin with.
In my view, the national holiday called Thanksgiving is a distant third.