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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving, a holiday that increasingly seems to be overshadowed by Christmas, is just around the corner. I love having a holiday dedicated to being grateful for the blessings we have. But I hate that this holiday is fading into the background. It's a national holiday, and it deserves to be more than just a bump in the road on the way to Black Friday and Christmas.

Unfortunately, retailers seem to be taking Thanksgiving out a step at a time. One of my favorite local radio stations started playing nothing but Christmas music on Nov. 1, far too early to be enjoyable. The mall has had its holiday displays up for weeks already, and grocery stores set up special exhibits of ingredients for traditional holiday foods weeks ago. Two satellite radio stations started playing nothing but Christmas music the middle of November.

Thanksgiving deserves its own day, and I want to enjoy this day on its own merits before being bombarded by commercials touting "the perfect gift." Several large chain stores are planning to get an early start on the Black Friday madness by opening at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. So now Thanksgiving is little more than the kick-off to the Christmas shopping frenzy, when people push and shove, stand in long lines in the cold and darkness, to buy things they don't need with money they don't have.

Thanksgiving needs to be celebrated as intended by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 when he proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving. Americans are in the midst of another difficult year, with very high unemployment, the housing market in a nosedive and the economy struggling. Still, most of us should be able to find something for which we are thankful. And one of those things shouldn't be that we can get a head start on our shopping.

I am thankful that I can take care of myself and my daughter. We are blessed with good health, medical insurance, a nice house and cars, all the clothes we need, plenty of food and luxuries such as cell phones, a big-screen TV and digital cameras.

The least we can do is to help those not as fortunate, by donating food and money, and by giving of our time and talents. So I'm going to do something different this Thanksgiving. I don't plan to prepare a big meal. Instead, I have signed up to work as a server at a Thanksgiving meal prepared by the food pantry where I volunteer each week.

A local McDonald's restaurant, which will be closed on Thanksgiving, donates its restaurant space every year to host a free dinner for anyone who wants to join in -- the homeless, those who cannot afford to prepare a big meal themselves, and those who live alone. So this year, Thanksgiving dinner will be at McDonald's, enjoying food prepared by volunteers at St. Felix Pantry.

I challenge my readers to turn off the television, leave the shopping for a couple of days, and really take time to think about your blessings this year. If you have food on the table, a roof over your head and are able to make ends meet, even if it's a struggle, you have something for which to be thankful. Then, find a cause that moves you: homelessness, hunger, child abuse, animal abuse, the environment, literacy. Get involved, whether it's once a day or once a month. You can make a difference in the life of another, be it human or 4-legged animal. 

The spirit of Thanksgiving should not be limited to just one day or just one time of year. Rather, that spirit should pervade and guide our lives, our thoughts and our actions every day. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And thank you for taking time to read my blog today and throughout the year.