The great Shirley Chisholm once said, “Service is the rent you pay for room on this earth.”
Last week was Thanksgiving and we all obviously have much to be thankful for. Just waking up each morning is a blessing within itself. Family and fellowship are extremely important, but giving back to the community or to people in need is always a central theme for me when it comes to Thanksgiving.
I look back to Booker T. Washington who fully believed that we all play a role in creating a better community. He said, “Do not think life consists of dress and show. Remember that everyone’s life is measured by the power that that individual has to make the world better – this is all life is.”
And every year I promise myself that I will not eat too much on Thanksgiving. Of course, every year that promise falls by the wayside. When it comes to my grandmother’s sweet potato pie or some mac n’ cheese and corn bread dressing – I pretty much loose all self-restraint.
But I guess we all have our vices. Thanksgiving is a pretty unique holiday in my book. First, it’s not as commercialized as many other holidays. Second, like the Fourth of July it is a holiday unique to the United States.
And although it’s not as commercialized as it relates to gift giving, many of us don’t rarely recognize or celebrate the true meaning or intent of the holiday.
Yeah, I know you probably saying what’s new? That is the case with many other holidays. But I do recall learning about the origins of Thanksgiving in elementary school. I think that I even remember being involved in one of those cheesy elementary school plays – I vaguely recall playing the role of a pilgrim.
The origins of Thanksgiving go back to the Pilgrims and the trials and tribulations they faced once arriving in America. Despite a large number of the group dying within the first few months of landing in the “new country,” they had a good harvest with the help of the natives.
The concept of Thanksgiving originated in Europe so the Pilgrims were accustomed to celebrating a good harvest. They decided to have a feast to thank God and fellowship with one another.
So Thanksgiving does have some religious importance. It’s not simply about turkey, stuffing, yams and my grandma’s awesome sweet potato pie.
This holiday I have to give a shout out to all those unsung heroes and folks in our communities who are simply doing their part to help children and families without any recognition at all.
Whether it is mentoring or working at the local food bank, we all can give back to those in need. If you don’t have the time to volunteer then make a monetary donation to a nonprofit organization. If you don’t have money or time right now maybe you have clothing, toys or food that you can donate.
Novelist Joshua Henry Jones once said, “None of us are responsible for our birth. Our responsibility is the use we make of life.” And we can all make use of the lives we live.
My point is very simple. We all can do something to help someone other than ourselves. Let’s embrace the history and essence of the holiday. Thank God and thank those who are going above and beyond to make a difference.
“Having been given, I must give,” said Paul Robeson former singer and activist.
So this holiday season let’s be mindful of the true intent and essence of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Let’s give and actually try to do what Jesus would do – help the downtrodden and needy.
And despite a very divisive election cycle and probably the worst U.S. President ever, we must give thanks that we live in the greatest country and the world. And yes I know, living in great place doesn’t mean that we ignore or excuse the challenges – especially the inequality and racial issues.
Again, let’s take some time to thank God for all that we have, and do something to help someone in need. And besides, it feels good to help people. As Frederick Douglass said, “Remember that our cause is one and that we must help each other if we would succeed.”
Signing off from my Grandma’s house – trying to ignore that last slice of sweet potato pie on the counter,