It’s almost the end of November, and the beginning of the “season,” which has a variety of interpretations. For some it’s the shopping season, for others a spiritual season, and for many, the giving season.
It’s heartening to see the bountiful number of individuals, groups and community organizations hosting Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless and less fortunate. This time of year, people who normally paid scant attention to the plight of the poor are often inspired by the spirit of goodwill to dedicate time and support to worthy causes. But such dedication often falters with the last toast of champagne for the New Year, as the pressure and daily tedium of life resume. Meanwhile, unfortunately, the poor reverts to poverty, the hungry to hunger, and the sufferers to suffering when the giving season ends.
Several community and other organizations should be commended for their seasonal efforts. However, those who are concerned about fighting poverty year-round often question why the same diligent fundraising, food collections, toy drives and home repairs can’t extend throughout the year. Others will argue that as much as some would like the spirit of goodwill to extend throughout the year, this giving spirit is accepted as an indelible norm of the holiday season, but not expected to either precede this season or follow it.
This argument is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable to just stand by and watch some in our communities year after year revert to poverty and the unbelievable struggles of trying to make ends meet. It boggles the mind that the same people who display so much generosity in organizing various Thanksgiving and Christmas events are not able to exercise similar commitment to develop long term plans for countering and alleviating deeply rooted poverty.
On Thanksgiving Day a few years ago, a local pastor was asked to offer the blessing at a dinner held for poor residents in Overtown, Miami-Dade. His prayer was brief and simple. “Lord teach us to always give thanks and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, not just for today, but always.”
Some who were present were touched not just by the prayer’s simplicity, but by the depth of its message. Asked why his blessing was so brief, the priest said “I don’t need to pray a long prayer to make people understand that love and charity towards each other shouldn’t be just a highlight of the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Each year it amazes me that people don’t recognize that the spirit they display during the holiday season ought to be displayed all year.”
This Thanksgiving, as our communities gather to organize treats for the poor, we are urged to give thanks and seek means to continue this generosity to our neighbors. This generosity, especially for those less fortunate, shouldn’t only be committed for “the season,” but be part of a long-term commitment. Something seems awry when charities are placed on hold for eleven months, then unwrapped and displayed with much pomp and circumstance for just one month. As the community gives thanks this Thursday, remember that poverty takes no holiday.