I’ve been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving over the last few days. Sometimes I think we’ve all become so used to the word as a description of a specific day, a specific holiday, that we have lost sight of what a term like thanks-giving truly means. As families rush around preparing for Thanksgiving dinners and get-togethers this week, I wanted to slow things down if possible and reflect on some things worth giving thanks for. And maybe correct some misconceptions about those who come to us for help.
Here at Harvest Hope Food Bank, we all count our blessings daily and sometimes hourly. We feel the need for thanks-giving to our many, many donors and contributors. To all of the churches and civic organizations that take time out of their days to work with us and organize food drives and encourage everyone coming through their doors to drop off food items. To all of the area businesses who provide generous financial gifts to help us pay for food and the means to provide for the needy. To all of the volunteers who chose to spend time working at our emergency food pantries, who not only find the time in their busy lives to help out, but allow themselves to see the faces of the hungry and experience first-hand a measure of sorrow that many others do not wish to see. And to those private citizens who drop off gifts of food in our food barrels around town, or come to our facilities with carloads of food to give to their desperate neighbors.
Let me take the time to talk a little about those neighbors, the people who line up each morning and ask for our help. From time-to-time I hear others, others who obviously are blissfully unaware of how fortunate they are, make disparaging comments about the hungry and unfortunate who line up to see us. They want to categorize these people as lazy or unwilling to work to provide for themselves. For some reason I cannot understand, they think that it is easy to line up at food pantries like ours and ask for things so many of us take for granted.
Well friends, it is not easy, and I can assure you that these people do not want to be here. Many of them have jobs; in fact 93% of the people who come to us for emergency food are working but still exist below the poverty line and struggle to provide the most basic of necessities for themselves and their families. As I look out my window today, I see a long line of people waiting in the cold and the rain to tell us of their circumstances and leave with one less thing to worry about for a little while: food for their families. A basic human need. Think about. People who go to work everyday, people who have two or three jobs, people who struggle to earn a living and still do not make enough to pay all the bills and feed their families.
Many we see have lost jobs, and want nothing more than to return to work and return to the security and dignity that comes from providing for themselves. Many have college degrees and formerly held high-paying jobs, but have been laid off, let go, downsized, phased down, phased out, or any of a number of terms that have come to be polite ways of saying…forced toward poverty. Terms like “jobless recovery” or “economic recovery” have no meaning for them. These terms do not pay for groceries. For the past 26 months I have seen an increasing demand for our services. We currently serve over a 100% more people than we did last year. Throughout the year we have seen 400 to 500 people a day line up when we open our doors in the morning. This week, the week of Thanksgiving, we expect to see upwards of 800 people a day. Believe me friends, they would rather be warm and dry at work than wet and shivering in line for food.
The State newspaper just ran a story listing Columbia as one of the top ten most charitable cities in the country. I see proof of this everyday as I see the donors, the contributors, the businesses bringing food and writing checks to us, and the volunteers in our emergency food pantry. And not just in Columbia. We see the efforts and concerns of good people helping out in the Pee Dee region and the Greater Greenville area. Our good citizens know what blessings are, and know what they have to give thanks for. Many may know that given the wrong circumstances, they themselves could go from giving to the needy to in just a few months becoming the needy. We at Harvest Hope give thanks to these angels in our community. We are blessed to live and work with them.
The Lord can say to every one of these caring and generous members of the community: “Job well done good and faithful servants.”
Let’s remember what thanks-giving truly means. It is a wonderful time of year and a wonderful holiday. But more than that, it is a wonderful term we should keep in our hearts, cherish and remember throughout the year.
Thank You and God Bless You and Your Family,