I can still remember a moving Thanksgiving sermon that my pastor preached when I was just 12 years old. The sermon, entitled, "Who Took the Giving Out of Thanksgiving?", was all about the selfishness of our modern-day society. By the close of the discourse, we were all feeling mighty guilty. So when the preacher invited us all to give toward a special offering to help needy families, even I put my lunch money in the offering.
Forty years later, things have changed somewhat. I am now a pastor myself and I have found that most people are very willing to give financially to help people in need. What I have noticed, though, is that people are not as willing to give their time to the needs of people less fortunate.
A few months ago, I accompanied several of my church members to help serve a meal at Good Works in Athens. Good Works is a ministry that touches the lives of folks struggling with the same poverty, joblessness and homelessness that afflict many people in our area. While the meal we served was very important, the Good Works staff emphasized to us that even more important would be our church volunteers spending time visiting with, talking with and eating with the people we served.
This Thanksgiving, many people will still need much assistance in terms of financial giving and donations of food to meet their physical needs. But, the less fortunate are also in need of emotional and spiritual support that can only be provided by caring people sharing their lives with them. How can we provide this type of "hands on" giving? We might:
Invite someone in need to our home for Thanksgiving dinner.
Spend Thanksgiving visiting someone who is shut-in.
Surprise someone by delivering a Thanksgiving basket of food.
Volunteer for Harvest of Hope, a food reclamation organization that supplies literally tons of food to area food pantries.
Volunteer at the Marietta Community Food Pantry at the First Congregational Church.
Volunteer to work for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thanksgiving Day at Norwood United Methodist Church, where there will be almost 400 meals served.
These are only a few of the ways we can give our lives away to help people this Thanksgiving.
By taking the time to share of ourselves with others, we may truly put the giving that matters most back in Thanksgiving.
Doug Stockton is the pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Marietta.