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  • Katherine Dudley Hoehn

Not just at Thanksgiving

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

It's that time of year again. Many Americans will prepare a lavish meal of celebration and thanks while spending time with family and friends. Others will not be so fortunate. I'll say an extra special blessing before the Thanksgiving meal, for the food to provide us strength to go out and do good work in service to those in need.

Like many of my generation, my parents grew up during the Great Depression, then felt the impact of or served in World War II. They came from families who worked hard and shared with others where they could, because that was being neighborly. They were frugal, but they were generous.

At this time of the year, sharing is a prominent theme, along with being thankful. It feels as if there isn't quite enough of that going around all year long. Need doesn’t just happen during the holiday season. Poverty, homelessness, and hunger are prevalent all year and not limited to those months in which holidays make us feel most benevolent. Not just at Thanksgiving.

Dad’s father, the only dentist in a rather rural area of Kentucky, accepted payments in produce, poultry, services, or whatever his patients could afford. And he treated those he knew would not be able to pay at all, because their need was greater than his. Not just at Thanksgiving.

Mother grew up in rural Western Kentucky, the youngest of five children who were raised primarily by their mother, my grandmother, who was widowed when Mother was only six. Each day, Mother walked their cow down to the pasture behind the Poor House farm where it would graze. Mother saw the people and conditions at the Poor House. It made a lasting impression and put fear in her heart. Mother would threaten us with going “to the Poor House” when we were greedy or financially irresponsible. In the early 1900’s, it was the place you went if you were destitute with nowhere else to turn. There were no government checks or bailouts for missteps. Despite having little food to spare, Grandmother often took food from their table, or produce from her garden, to the Poor House to share. She knew others needed it more, and she was grateful for what she had. And not just at Thanksgiving.

There are so many reasons that people are in need these days. While there is no Poor House, their are homes filled with the poor, and homeless live in places worse than the Poor House. I know I can do more, without judgement. I can contribute to the food pantry more frequently, share more generously, and be more thoughtful of the needs of others. And not just at Thanksgiving.

With more of my friends and family, I’m exchanging contributions to nonprofits in lieu of gifts at Christmas and on our birthdays. It’s a great way to help others all year ‘round. And not just at Thanksgiving.

I am thankful I never went to The Poor House. I’m also thankful for my parents, who I miss terribly and who taught me to share; for my siblings with whom I, the first child, probably never shared as much as I should have; for my children who still teach me valuable lessons, remind me of my faults, and make me proud that I kept us out of The Poor House during the hardest years; for my friends who aren’t afraid to call me on missteps and give me encouragement when I need it; and for my dog Leah who is grateful for every walk, ride in the car, belly rub, treat, and meal. And not just at Thanksgiving.

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