Giving thanks, helping others on Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The story that has formed the basis of the Thanksgiving holiday is a nice one. It is a story of sharing and acceptance.

As the story goes, the pilgrims landed in America, the "Indians" they found there welcomed them, and they all sat down to a nice feast of Native American foods like corn and turkey.

As we reflect on the story we were told in elementary school, in which the brave pilgrims met up with Native Americans and shared a meal, we cannot forget the other side.

At the "first Thanksgiving" the Wampanoag Nation provided most of the food and signed the treaty granting pilgrims the right to the land at Plymouth.

We cannot forget that nearly 70 percent of all crops grown today were originally cultivated by Native American peoples. How would those of us of European descent handle our spaghetti without the tomatoes that were introduced to the Pilgrims?

Though Thanksgiving is supposed to be about acceptance and giving thanks for the things we have, historically, the holiday has been associated with hardship and less-than-ideal circumstances, like those of the first Thanksgiving.

When Lincoln established the holiday in 1863, Americans were dying by the thousands in the throes of civil war. Roosevelt signed the holiday into law barely three weeks after Pearl Harbor, another time of tragedy and hardship.

Today, we are faced with economic hardship leaving some without the financial means to enjoy the meal that so many of us are able to take for granted.

This is not a time to blame but a time to reflect, for the sake of those who remember a different history, for those who are without families or homes in which to celebrate.

Thanksgiving, no matter how it was established, is a time to not only give thanks for what we have, it is also an opportunity to share of those fortunes and of ourselves, maybe not even despite the hardships that came with the creation of the holiday, but because of them.

Take the time to reflect on what Native Americans continue to suffer. Take some time to consider those less fortunate and what they might be going through on this and every other day.

And then do something about it.

But if you don't have the means to donate, or if you just want to help out, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities.

When it comes down to it, Thanksgiving is a holiday about helping others. Let's take the time to consider how valuable it is to give thanks for everyone.