On Saturday my husband and I joined with other volunteers to help smaller churches and community organizations prepare for Thanksgiving and the coming cold weather. Our group worked at MEAC, an organization that was created when 12 Cincinnati community churches came together to create a central resource for families and individuals that need help. While Gregg fixed their basement dehumidifier (a skill he acquired from our move into an old house!) I helped unload boxes of donated food from the van.
The food had been collected from variety of schools in the area from their annual Thanksgiving food drives, and many of the boxes had been decorated to look like turkeys or Pilgrims, with feathers and faces that made me laugh out loud. But it was the big box with writing all over it that got my attention.
I AM THANKFUL FOR.. in bold black print was surrounded by the handwriting of young children, and their answers stuck with me the entire weekend. Along with ‘my friend Danny,’ and ‘my mom and dad’ were notes like ‘my bed’ and ‘food to eat.’ When you’re in third grade you say what’s on your heart, and don’t filter your feelings before you let them out for the whole world to see. As I read more, I realized many of these kids brought food to school to give to others when their own personal circumstances were uncertain.
In my 30+ years in business, I have been steeped in the doctrine of capitalism, of free-market competition that teaches us the best business wins. As individuals, I believe we can accomplish almost anything if we work hard, focus, have a plan, and never give up. That’s been my life philosophy.
But if we are honest with ourselves, that isn’t the entire picture.
Most of us who have good lives today had a stable beginning to grow from – a safe place to sleep, food to eat and clothes to wear. I never had to worry about my personal safety on my way to school. As a result of all of these things I was able to learn, graduate, and go on to college. It’s easy to take all those things for granted, and once we’ve made it to the top of the hill, look down on others with the mistaken belief that we did it all on our own. We didn’t.
The New York Times article, They Are Us, reminded me that simply being born in the United States is a huge advantage I was given that I take for granted every day. The recent debates about keeping out immigrants we increasingly eye with suspicion makes me wonder how many future Albert Einsteins and Steve Jobs we won’t have in this country because of our fears.
Before you dismiss me as a bleeding heart, simply consider that we all have advantages we were given, and we take some of the most basic for granted. As you gather for the Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family, please consider all that you were given that you may take for granted today. Be thankful that you are where you are, and open your heart to the possibility that there are others who may need a break too.