How to Put More ‘Thanks’ Into Your Giving

delight yourself in the lord

“I have never cared much for the Thanksgiving holiday, once I grew up and became an adult.  As a young child, it was a blast.  We would load up the car with my three siblings and lots of food, and then sit in the back seat while my father would drive what felt like a very long distance to my Grandmother’s home out in the country. I think it was about 150 miles each way.  Once we arrived, we would immediately eat a huge meal of turkey and all the fixings.  I remember eating so much food that I always had to spend time in the outhouse because my belly was way too full.  After our meal, all my cousins and I would dash outside to the barn to build tunnels in the hay and pick on the younger kids before I would have a major asthma attack or end up being bullied myself.  Yes, those were the good old days…full of family, fun, and good times”

~ Dr. Gayle Joplin Hall.

Growing up means losing some, if not all, of your family traditions because you now have a family of your own.  You are expected to visit your spouse’s family (if you are married), or swap holidays, or do whatever it is that you decide as a couple to do.  With my first marriage, I let my new husband walk all over me and tell me how it was going to be.  I was young, like right out of high school.  I got pregnant with my first child and had him within 15 months.  The men would go out hunting, walk into the paternal Grandparents’ home with stinky, dirty hunting clothes and muddy boots on, sit down, and expect to be waited on. And, they were waited on.  The first time I witnessed this, I told my new husband that I was not going to do that. He asked me “why not?” and I told him I was not his servant, that I was his wife and partner, and then when we were alone, I got in his face about how poorly he had just treated his Grandmother.  He told me she ‘liked’ it.  I told him how wrong he was.  About two years into our marriage, I quit going with him for Thanksgiving or any other holiday to his parents’ or his grandparents’ home.  I could not stand the disrespect.  And so, now you may understand why I dislike Thanksgiving.

What about all of the single people out there? What do they do and where do they go if they do not go back to their parent’s home?  I used to have single people over when it was just my baby son and me after I divorced.  We would ask people who were alone to come and eat with us.  I never fixed turkey, because it is not my favorite thing.  My goal is to never cook a whole turkey.  Perhaps I am the only person who wants to be able to say that, but it is important for me to cook foods that I like, especially on holidays.

I have even heard of couples who have been together for many years, yet one partner goes off to be with his or her family and the other partner does the same with their own respective family.  Where does that stop and when does the couple say, “No more.  We are together and you either like or respect us as a loving couple, or we are out of here.”  Why do people have such a difficult time standing up for what they believe in?

Here in the metropolis I live in, there is no need for volunteers at the homeless shelters to serve up meals on holidays.  This seems to be the time of year that churches and other organizations want to really help out. I am so thankful for their generosity.  When I was a college Professor, I taught my students about service learning and working with the homeless by going to the shelters and feeding 705 people per night at the largest shelter in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  My students interviewed some of the homeless people and found out that they are just like you and just like me.  They were hungry, they needed a bed to sleep in, and they wanted to have their dignity restored.  One woman interviewed, was in her 80’s.  Her home had been destroyed by fire.  She was at the shelter because she did not want her children to know that she had nowhere to go.  All of her children lived out of town and had no clue she was homeless.  Yes, you guessed it.  I bawled my eyes out after that story. It made me sick.

I held my emotions together as I heard story after story and especially, after coming back to the campus several times with all of my classes and listening to their stories.  My students learned life’s lessons that I could have never taught them in a classroom.  They were humbled, they were sad, but most of all, they were thankful to be exposed to what happens in our world, in our own backyard, less than two miles from the beautiful campus I taught at and where they attended school.

Their giving legacy lives on.  I received a letter last week and one today from former students who told me they had been back to the shelters many times and had taken their families to help, also.  When they told me their lives had been changed forever, my comment was, “Mine, too.”

Who can you invite to dinner, who can you help to hold up in esteem, who can you say a prayer for as you partake in your traditional Thanksgiving meal this week?  You may not know a name, but I’ll bet you do not look away the next time you pass a homeless person on the street.  They do not want to harm you.  They just want to be fed.

This article is dedicated to any and every person who has broken bread with someone they do not know, or for those who want to make a difference in our world.  God bless you and peace to all.


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