This Thanksgiving season, we once again face more than our usual share or portion of uncertainty.
We are reminded daily in news reports that our nation is heading for a “fiscal cliff” — a crushing combination of tax hikes and program cuts— unless members of Congress and the president can reach a compromise to stop it, just two days into the approaching new year.
The economy remains weak, job growth is slow, with Gloucester’s unemployment rate on the upswing again, though still below last year’s.
And overseas, our military personnel — including many troops of our own Cape Ann family members, friends and neighbors — remain engaged in Afghanistan. Plus, renewed fighting has flared between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, while, in the background, the ever-present threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambition looms.
For what, then, should we be thankful — on this day set aside for giving thanks?
On the national scale, despite our sluggish economy and frightening level of debt, America remains a wealthy nation, one blessed with abundant natural resources, enormous productive capacity and an innovative spirit in its people.
Most importantly, we remain a free people. We have, after all, just completed state and national elections. And while a sense of bitter divisiveness remains in many circles, we should all be grateful that have the ability to freely choose those who lead us — thanks in no small part, of course, to those troops who remain far from home on this Thanksgiving, and to the veterans of all wars who went before them.
But closer to home, there are many reasons to give thanks — including a number that surfaced this week.
Noting the increased number of requests for assistance, executive director Julie LaFontaine of The Open Door food pantry and service agency also noted that she has seen an increase in giving across the community as well.
So, while the agency’s distribution of Thanksgiving dinners inched closer than ever toward the 1,000 mark on Wednesday, the response from the community was on a course to match it — with more and more Gloucester and Cape Ann residents reaching out to ensure that their neighbors in this very special place were not left by the proverbial wayside at this special time of the year.
Even more significant, a fair amount of that giving has come through school groups — and it was noteworthy that, a day after we printed photos of students from Veterans Memorial School heading out with items they collected for those served by The Open Door, more photos showed students from three Gloucester High School groups, the Rotary Interact Club, the Student Council and the National Honor Society, were actively working at The Open Door, packing food bags and boxes for Thanksgiving delivery.
Those photos, in their own way, paint a more important big picture; they show that Gloucester and Cape Ann residents, school teachers and others are not only committed to reaching out themselves to help their neighbors in need, but also reaching out to convey to our young people of the importance of community service and giving – so that they, too, grow up recognizing the need to respond and carry on this spirit going forward.
So as we all gather with family members and friends today to observe this truly classic American holiday — and as the conversation turns to the many challenges all of us are facing on a day-to-day basis — let’s also pause to think of all for which we should indeed be profoundly thankful.
That especially includes living in a community so rich in a giving spirit — that not only shows up on Thanksgiving, but is evident throughout much of the year.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.