TO TRULY GIVE THANKS — means giving to others!

John Flannery
4 min readNov 19, 2022

by John P. Flannery, II

When we asked a local resident what he was doing for Thanksgiving, he said he was going to be with his mother-in-law, and family.

Not everyone, however, is with his or her family or loved one.

The service men and women we so recently celebrated may be abroad in theaters of war and at risk. Some Americans have volunteered to stand shoulder to shoulder, soldiering with Ukrainians, placing themselves at high risk. They won’t be sitting down with their family at home.

Even here on the home front, it is true we have those separated from family and friends by obligations at work, the expense of travel, perhaps illness, the (hopefully) waning COVID infections, maybe they are in a hospital recovering, or told they shouldn’t travel, and an array of circumstances too varied to imagine or recount.

This separation doesn’t mean that they have nothing to be thankful for.

Despite time and distance and obligation and whatever has caused separation this season, they still have each other to cherish, know they are loved, may draw strength and meaning from their connection, what they were for each other in the recent and distant past, and the knowledge that they will be together again.

There is another group of people we cannot overlook on Thanksgiving, who have little to be thankful for, the homeless and the hungry.

We cannot celebrate ourselves without giving these poor souls hope.

Nor can we ignore the fact that the plight of the homeless and hungry is not limited to a single day.

We should especially be aware, as the evenings grow cold and the morning sun burns off the frost, what the homeless and hungry shall suffer.

In the good book, in Ezekiel, we are encouraged to be “given [of our] bread to the hungry.” We have a word that conceals hunger and starvation. Listen carefully and you’ll hear it on air waves; starvation has become the blander express — “food insecure.”

We should not be prideful that we are better if we have food or a home. We should make it part of our thanks to be giving to others.

We are soon upon the season when we celebrate in an annual rite of passage a young couple that could not find a home to give birth to a small child. In this timeless story, there was no room at the inn. Matthew wrote how -“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Nor do many of our sick and poor have a place to lay their heads. If you truly believe we are made in “his image,” then how can anyone not care to help the homeless?

I’m not religious but these writings and beliefs square with how the family of man should treat each other. After all, the measure of a civilization is how we treat our own.

It’s a long tradition, going back to the beginning of recorded history, best illustrated among the Greeks, as a matter of culture and comity handed down to the present, to welcome strangers, as guests to our land, to our homes and to dine on our bounty.

In recent days, we’ve watched some of our less worthy political leaders run from that historic tradition — trash talking those from other nation-states where they are suffering, to come to America.

The Old Testament teaches that strangers should be treated as native born, that they should be fed from our harvest, and they should be clothed.

In Leviticus, it is written, “And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself…” In the New Testament, in Matthew, it is written, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

Many from this community and across our nation are themselves strangers in other lands, in war zones, in universities, towns, world capitals, and we hope and expect, even insist, they be treated, as we should treat strangers in our land.

Those who are in the military service and abroad celebrating Thanksgiving are strangers in the lands that they find themselves.

We should give thanks for how they are treated, welcome strangers to our land, and share with the hungry and homeless who are not as fortunate as we may be.

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