On the day before Thanksgiving in 2008, Texas Schmexas didn't exist, but that morning I sent this e-mail to my friends and family:
If I had a blog, I would have posted this today.
I have a story to tell you. A few weeks ago (yes, a few weeks), I was annoyed to see the Salvation Army bell-ringers had already arrived at our local grocery store. Annoyed? Yes, annoyed. You see, I’m very intentional about Advent, about preparation for Christmas, about not skipping past the waiting and expectation to the joys of the manger scene. So here was a bell-ringer, wishing people “Merry Christmas,” and it wasn’t even Advent. Heck, it wasn’t even Thanksgiving. As I went by, I smiled at the bell-ringer anyway and said in a jovial voice, “It’s not even Advent yet!” (Honest, I was being friendly, friendlier than the folks who go by and pretend not to see or hear the glad tidings of joy being wished to them.) The bell-ringer looked at me, surprised I’d said something. She said, “What?” So I repeated my comment: “It’s not even Advent yet.”
Her response? “Well, people still need to eat.”
Now that’s an extra large serving of humble pie.
I’ve been thinking about these words today: To those who have been given much, much will be required.
I found out on Sunday that our local food pantry, the Amen House, is desperately low on food and they have been receiving more requests than ever. (This is a nationwide problem, if you hadn’t heard. There was even a story at CNN this morning about it.)
I also found out on Sunday that the Salvation Army location in our county (we live in the county seat) is closing its doors when its lease runs out at the end of the year. Closing its doors.
I got a letter in the mail from Compassion International (the sponsor-a-child group based in Colorado Springs) yesterday reminding me of the global food crisis and asking me to give money to support the unsponsored child fund. The unsponsored child fund. There are hundreds of thousands of children signed up with Compassion just waiting to be sponsored. Organizations like Compassion are having a hard time covering the cost of food as it is for the kids who DO have sponsors, as the price of rice and other grains skyrockets worldwide.
We’ve been sponsoring a young boy in India for the last five years (I’ve been married nearly five years? Craziness.) and his letters of thanks and appreciation for little things–a pair of shoes, for instance–remind me to be grateful. Sometimes the translations are a bit wonky and make us smile: “Dear Mummy and Daddy Elizabeth… your prayers are the basement of my life.” (We think basement means “foundation.”)
The temptation, during times of economic crisis, is to hoard, to save, to put away because we know it’s only going to get worse. I guess the reason I’m writing all of this is because I know that sometime tomorrow you are probably going to sit down at a table piled high with turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, yams, pumpkin pies, apple pies, shoofly pies… and you will be thankful. I know you will be thankful. But I wonder if maybe instead of just “giving thanks” on Thanksgiving, we could all actually try to do some tangible “giving,” too.
I’m guessing it would look different for each of us.
It might be as simple as cleaning off your plate tomorrow, not taking more than you can eat, not stuffing yourself silly, but appreciating every bite of food you are fortunate enough to have.
It might mean going through your can cupboard and dropping some food off at your local food pantry or homeless shelter. (If you don’t know where it is, find out.) Today lots of canned goods are on sale at the grocery store, too, so it might be a good day to the fight the crowds.
It might mean teaching your child about giving, about thankfulness, about Jesus’ love for “the least of these.”
It might mean giving some money to the unsponsored children’s fund at Compassion – less than forty dollars would feed a child for a month.
It might mean giving the gift of sustainable agriculture to a family through Heifer International.
It might mean finding a homeless person in your city and offering to buy her a cup of coffee.
Who knows what it might mean for you and your family?
For he has not ignored the suffering of the needy.
He has not turned and walked away.
He has listened to their cries for help.
– Psalm 22:24