For many Americans, the importance of Thanksgiving Day resides in family gatherings, football games, feasting, forgetting about life’s obligations, or gathering to give thanks for the many blessings they have in life.
Everyone has a unique tradition he or she holds dear.
My annual holiday ritual usually consists of celebrating personal indulgence and selfishly focusing on my personal needs. I seek out friends or family with the most traditional turkey dinner, consume two tall cans of Australian beer, and hit the theater for the latest high-action release. I wanted to try something new this year and give back to the community I’ve grown to love.
Finding an opportunity to serve others is relatively easy in St. George during the holiday season. The Switchpoint Community Resource Center operates the local food pantry and homeless shelter, and its helpful volunteer coordinator can lead anyone to the greatest area of need. I was scheduled a time on Thanksgiving to volunteer, and I immediately wondered what had taken me so long.
The owner of the Red Rock Canyon School in St. George has hosted a free community dinner on Thanksgiving Day for over 40 years. As I approached the building and saw the line of people waiting outside that included students, seniors, families, and those in need, I understood why it takes a small army of people and donations to make the event possible.
The operation ran like a well-oiled machine with citizens crowding through the front door and volunteers being funneled through the kitchen to help out on the food line. After twenty minutes of anxiously waiting, I finally made it to my station at the pie table. Initially, keeping the table filled with slices of cake and pie and loading up the whipped cream seemed like only a small part, but everyone had a role to play.
It turns out there is no shortage of volunteers on Thanksgiving, and each person is only allotted an hour to serve. I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t having much of an impact as the dozens of smiling faces passed by, until, suddenly, the face before me was an old friend who had fallen on hard times. As I watched him sit down across the room to eat what could possibly be his best meal of the month, it occurred to me how easily I could be in his place. I was grateful to be able to help him, even if only for a moment.
By the day’s end, over 1,000 meals had been served and hundreds of hearts left the event warmed, but after leaving, I realized being charitable needs to be important every day. Even though many show up on Thanksgiving or Christmas to help, volunteers are in short supply the other 363 days of the year.
There are organizations all across the region that can utilize talents on a regular basis. If you have legal skills, why not offer services at a local shelter to help people get back on their feet. Musicians and artists can donate their time at community centers or teachers can give lessons to at-risk children. Try something new and find a place that is interesting to volunteer today. You might find it is a habit you can enjoy the blessings of all year long.