Thanksgiving is a wonderful celebration for those of us who have family. It’s a time to get together and share a big dinner and much laughter. But it is something far different for those who have no home or family. It can become a time of deep depression, a time of pain or longing. Some escape further into drugs or alcohol to forget their despair and loneliness.
Each year, our local mission offers Thanksgiving dinner at the local fair grounds. Every year, the number of attendees has grown. Last year, over five thousand were served. It is a diverse crowd of men and women, some alone, some with families, many homeless, some with homes but living on small fixed incomes that didn’t meet their needs. Others were in rehabilitation programs working one-day-at-a-time to overcome the effects of drug and alcohol addiction. Some came because they were living on the street and hungry and in need of a decent meal.
Hundreds volunteered to help set up, cook, serve and hand out provisions. And Bibles. It is a blessing for those of us who can and have been involved in putting on the feast. Even so, it seems such a small thing in the face of so much in need. But the homeless can come for a nice dinner with cake and get haircuts, fresh clothing and a box of practical goodies as a present.
Frankly, Thanksgiving can bring an aftertaste of guilt for having so much when so many have nothing. It is a reminder that whatever we do have is on loan. Like a pitcher of water, we are filled in order to pour out blessings on others.
There never has been a time that there haven’t been the poorest of the poor among us. There was no room in the inn for Jesus. He was born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough. Jesus said we would always have the poor among us. Thanksgiving is a time to remember we are all created in the image of God. In Christ, no matter where we live or under what circumstances, we can be thankful for the hope He offers and the security that God keeps His promises, not just one or two days a year, but every day.
We can be prepared. We need to share: pint bottles of water, granola bars, plastic ponchos don’t cost much and can be a great blessing when someone is thirsty or hungry or needs cover from the rain. Sometimes the best gift is time, a sincere smile and greeting.
Thanksgiving may be a one day celebration, but it should be a state of mind we carry and share throughout the year.