As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving on Nov. 28 (and its aftermath of frenzied Friday foraging by the manic masses maneuvering through mammoth malls), let us lift up our weary eyes a moment from our artificially fattened turkeys and ponder this:
We live in the United States of America, a deeply flawed republic, indeed, but also a country where, for the most part, we can reasonably expect to go about our business without being blown up by a suicide bomber, being thrown into jail by agents of a police state, being forced to flee our borders because of civil strife, or being compelled to work in unsafe buildings that could collapse at any time.
Aren’t there people wandering around still looking for work, or at least, enough work to pay the basic bills? Absolutely, and I know several on a personal basis and I’m sure you do, as well.
Aren’t there folks being thrown out of homes for lack of money to pay the mortgage or the rent? Yes: just scan the daily papers and read the numerous foreclosure notices.
Aren’t there unfortunates spending every day on the street, panhandling for food? Yes, I see several camped out under the elevated highway near Jersey City’s Charlotte Circle, just to cite one of many examples.
Obviously, the USA isn’t a utopian society and there are those who would argue we are a dystopian, hopelessly fragmented, bigoted, us vs. them lot. Some political scientists, economists and columnists argue the gulf between the classes continues to widen and, as our government continues to print money and defer paying our debt, we will spiral down into the abyss.
I prefer not to join that chorus of doomsayers – at least not yet.
Instead, I’d rather focus on those among us who take the time to care about others less fortunate, without resources to make it through tough times. Organizations like the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and Goodwill Industries; a host of service groups like the Elks, Kiwanis, Rotary, Woman’s Club, Lions, Masons, our veterans’ posts, among others too numerous to mention.
And all the individual acts of kindness, like the recent blood drive sponsored by the Belleville firefighters’ union, held on behalf of a stricken comrade. Or those contributing to a bone marrow drive to aid a Kearny woman’s young grandson in Brooklyn.
Meanwhile, for those of us lucky enough to be able to enjoy the virtues of home and hearth for the holiday with friends and family, we should take time out to give thanks.
I was reminded recently by a Kearny lawyer acquaintance of the importance of family values and I know he’ll forgive me if I quote an excerpt of an e-mail he circulated among his many pals and associates as he marked his birthday:
“Everyone has their problems. People are struggling with issues [and] our family is no exception. Bills come due. Medical complications must be faced. Relationships fall on rocky times. That’s why we should try to be kind all day, every day, to whomever we meet.”
Referencing a family photo with his spouse and daughters, the lawyer observes: “When I look at pictures like this, however, I can put everything [in] perspective. I am among the luckiest guys in the world. …. “
Problems and issues will come, and go, and come back again, and go away again. But, I am surrounded by these ladies. We love each other. This is what is important. And it doesn’t have to be familial. Surround yourself with loving, caring people. Live among friends and neighbors. Help and allow yourself to be helped. That is the essence of being human. ….”
Yes. Those are words to remember on this and future Thanksgivings.
Have a pleasant holiday.
– Ron Leir