The Last Thursday in November

Nov 17, 2021

If you type “Thanksgiving Blog” into the search bar on your computer and hit return, you will doubtless get more “hits” than you care or have time to explore. Reading through the first dozen or so, you will likely see a predictable theme or two emerging. The majority of posts these days seem dedicated to the Thanksgiving meal and how to make it perfect, while a few others make reference to Plymouth Rock and Pilgrims and Indians.  Others, of course, do call our attention to the importance of turning the word around to acknowledge those familiar rituals, if we can call them that, which are not only time-honored but also forever appropriate.  We mean understanding “thanksgiving” day as “givingthanks” day.

All of us at NFESH will be gathering around plentiful dinner tables with family and friends and doing just that, as we expect and hope that you will as well. And this year, we like to imagine, those gatherings will be seasoned with an extra dash of joy and gratitude.

As we will doubtless see on local newscasts across the country next Thursday evening, many other people — and perhaps some of you — will be spending a few hours in shelters and other makeshift dining halls. There, before returning home to an abundantly full table and the company of family and friends, volunteers will be dishing out hot turkey dinners to the homeless and others who have nowhere else to turn for a real Thanksgiving meal. Regrettably and fortunately, that tradition too has become part of the Thanksgiving ritual in America.

Thanksgiving. Givingthanks. Giving. Thanks. Those words, one at a time or taken together, essentially define the last Thursday in November in these United States.

One special meal a year is certainly a fitting occasion for thanksgiving and givingthanks. But so too – and, we could argue, more so too–is each and every meal that literally thousands of seniors enjoy either in the company of their peers at congregate nutrition programs in senior centers across this land daily or have handed to them at their front doors by home-delivered meal program volunteers. We say those seniors enjoy their meals, because we know they do.

We acknowledge too that many of those senior citizens need and rely on the meals they enjoy for their health and well-being, for nutrition and socialization, whether that comes in the form of sitting around a table with others or receiving it, together with a smile and word of encouragement, from a “meals on wheels” volunteer .  From both our visits to scores of congregate nutrition sites and our opportunities over the years to ride along with volunteers of home delivered meal programs as they make deliveries across the country, we know firsthand that they do.

We know this too: the act of providing, preparing, serving or delivering those meals and managing and working in those local seniors nutrition programs, both congregate and home-delivered, exemplifies that great American tradition of Giving. Not just giving or serving of food, but giving of time, giving of energy, giving of talent to a profession of service. At the same time, it is also about imparting a sense of self-esteem and community to many elders who may not otherwise receive that gift, from anyone or anywhere else.

So this week as citizens across the country anticipate our national Thanksgiving holiday, we at NFESH are Givingthanks for you. Whether they are saying it out loud or not, we are sure that thousands of older Americans across this wide and diverse land are too.

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