Tomorrow is our nation’s Thanksgiving holiday. Yes, we all learned in grade school about the Native Americans and Pilgrims sharing a meal together in 1621, yet the holiday means so much more. It is truly a time for us to share with others, perhaps watch the Macy’s Day Parade, afternoon football, get our “tryptophan fix” and, most importantly, be thankful for all that we have.
As a child growing up in Orlando, Florida, I recall that every Thanksgiving my family would host two Jewish enlisted men and women from the Orlando Naval Training Center. It was such a highlight. First off, it was awesome to bring a grown adult in military uniform to play football with my friends at the neighborhood park while dinner was cooking. Yet, more importantly, we provided a warm “family” environment for these service men and women (who were away from their loved ones) to share the holiday. I am truly thankful to my parents for opening their home and showing me the importance of being welcoming to others.
Yesterday, I was touched by an email Merrill Hendin, Principal of the Portland Jewish Academy (PJA), sent to the parents of students at the school. In her email she discussed how Thanksgiving reflects one of the six foundational middot (values) at PJA -- Hoda’ah (gratitude). The middle school students were asked to list all the things they are grateful for – of course the very long list included such ideas as: shelter, food, Israel, Jewish traditions, family, and friends. It apparently even included Justin Bieber (despite my ten-year old daughter telling me differently, he would not have made my list). I appreciate, as Merrill stated, that “the students are unafraid to speak for themselves and work to do good things for the world.” As a proud parent, with two students in the school, I am truly thankful to PJA for my children’s wonderful education.
For many, however, these are difficult times. Jewish Family and Child Service (JFCS) just delivered Thanksgiving food boxes to 121 families in our community. I am sure there are even more who may be in need. I applaud the leadership of JFCS for enabling these families to enjoy the holiday. As a Jewish communal professional, I am thankful for the volunteer and professional leadership in our Jewish community who help meet the needs of so many 365 days a year.
Finally, I am thankful for my beautiful family. On Sunday, my wife and I will be celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary. I could never do what I do without her love and support.
Best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday – and despite any hardships or challenges, spend the day thinking of all the blessings and thankful things in your life. There are many!
PS – Do you ever wonder why immediately following Thanksgiving, the day when we are grateful for all that we have, comes “Black Friday,” the busiest shopping day of the year, for all of the things we want?