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Editorial: Thankful to live in this kind-hearted corner of the world

  • Monte Belmonte, right, talks with Brian Wozniak on the two-day march to support hungry families in western Massachusetts. The group was making its way from the Amherst Survival Center to Route 116 on Tuesday. gazette file photo

Published: 11/22/2018 9:23:54 AM
Modified: 11/22/2018 9:24:00 AM

The “original Thanksgiving” to which we in Massachusetts feel so close, which has become engrained in the national psyche over nearly four centuries, was a traditional harvest home festival like the annual celebrations the Pilgrims knew from their native England, where they had been held for centuries before.

The devout Pilgrims who had survived the first winter in Plymouth and were blessed with a bountiful harvest in the fall of 1621, naturally celebrated and gave thanks to their creator. As a nation, we generally trace our modern Thanksgiving holiday to that first harvest festival in New England, although there are differences.

Details of the first Plymouth feast are not well documented, but it did last three days, and since it was a harvest festival, we can be sure the tables were laden with what the new European settlers and their Native friends could grow and hunt in bountiful woodlands and seacoast.

The formal federal holiday we celebrate today originates with a presidential decree by Abraham Lincoln who even in the midst of the Civil War in 1863 saw the value of a national day of thanks and decreed the holiday so “That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts...”

And so it has been since. Thankfulness seems to begin with a sense of safety and security, which in the earliest colonial times came from a full larder after an ample harvest to ensure you could eat through the winter. And today, the holiday likewise is tied up in celebration of food, celebrated often by eating to excess.

But for many, the holiday can’t be celebrated — even in moderation — without the help of others. Many of our neighbors don’t enjoy food security. Yet, those who often go hungry between holidays can at least be thankful for holiday generosity of the many churches, fraternal organizations, food banks and community meal volunteers and donors — people like radio personality Monte Belmonte and Congressman Jim McGovern, who walked from Springfield to Greenfield this week to raise money for the hungry through the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Those of us who have the wherewithal to place a meal on the table this Thanksgiving, and every night of the year, should be thankful for that, but also thankful that we live in a generous, kind-hearted corner of the world where despite differences and disputes and some discouraging times, neighbors help neighbors, and more powerfully, neighbors help strangers, whether through a Santa Fund, a Warm the Children drive, or free community meal throughout the year and on holidays.

We don’t know of too many thoughtful people who in their hearts believe they will be judged or derive satisfaction for what they did for themselves in this world, but for what they have done for others.

There are so many people in the Franklin County and North Quabbin region who individually or in groups, do unto others, especially at times like Thanksgiving. And for that we are thankful.

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