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Giving Thanks: Part 2

I want to echo Pastor Walters’ thoughts last week, about gratitude: because I think we can never have enough reminders to give thanks. The need to give thanks doesn’t end just because we graduated from high school and no longer have our parents’ voices reminding us to send Uncle Erwin a note to express our appreciation for that nice sweater he sent in observance of the event.

But it’s tricky. I’m grateful right now because I just went to the fridge to see if there might be one more of those tasty burritos left so that I could have lunch! The burritos were there – though not as many as a couple of days ago (they were tasty, all right!); but there were more than enough to keep me energized until supper tonight. But then I began to think of those in the Ukraine who are hungry because of military conflict there; or those who are refugees in a camp in Africa or the middle east; or those who … well, there’s a guy who stands on the median of the street a couple of miles from where I’m living who holds a cardboard sign saying, “Homeless; I have kids.” Well, to be thankful means more than “I’m thankful I’m not in that situation.” Even so, I’ve decided to carry a few extra bills in my pocket so that I can give them to the couple who stand on the street corner every Sunday, just outside the church I’m attending. But last Sunday I forgot my cash at home, so at the moment I had nothing to give them – and it was windy and cold!

But the real point is that it’s not enough to give a dollar bill – or a five, or ten, or twenty – to a person on a street corner, which probably does little more than serve to assuage my guilt for having something to give: it might help more to spend a moment and engage the person in human conversation, and learn why the person is on the street corner – and risk then to maybe become drawn into some kind of action that can change the person’s circumstances. Maybe.

Here's the thing. First of all, the problem of global hunger is a lot larger than satiating my hunger with a microwaved burrito from the fridge. But to engage another hungry person and learn something about that person and the person’s situation doesn’t just feed the need for something to eat: it’s a matter of conferring a sense of dignity of a person as a person that fills a deeper, more profound need: the need to be recognized.

But there’s another thing. To think about global hunger is to think about something so huge that so many of us feel we can do nothing; we lose our sense of power in the face of it, we lose our sense of agency. Yet, we all have some degree of agency – even if it’s only to give a dollar. And to do this out of a sense of gratitude is a life-changing, world-changing thing. The life that is changed is ours.

Pastor Allen Heggen

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