Tahlequah Daily Press

November 27, 2013

Be thankful, and try not to judge


TAHLEQUAH — On Thursday, many Cherokee County residents will be gathering with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving. Turkey, ham, or other savory meats, with all the trimmings, will grace well-appointed tables, followed by pumpkin or pecan pie.

Regardless of its nebulous beginnings, this holiday has become for many Americans a time of reflection on the blessings they share. Though in recent years, it’s become more commercialized, many families still reserve this day as the one time during the year they can share a meal a meal and their common stories.

Others aren’t so fortunate. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the day off. More retailers are open on Thanksgiving, and convenience stores have long been holiday staples. Law enforcement officers, EMTs, firefighters, hospital personnel, and media staffers are also on the clock, and many others – like utility company crews – must be on call that day.

But at least most of these folks have jobs, and can put food on the table, even if it’s not in the traditional way. And they have roofs over their heads, and clothing on their backs. That’s not the case for a growing number of people in this country.

As Americans become increasingly polarized on the political spectrum, the less fortunate are increasingly – and wrongfully – being demonized. In many areas, the economy is still in the doldrums, and that breeds resentment among those struggling to keep their heads above water. The poor, the downtrodden, and those fighting addictions find themselves in the spotlight as accusatory fingers are pointed. Those to whom the fingers are attached ask, “Can’t they just pull themselves up by the bootstraps?”

The fact is, many folks have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. They may have lost their jobs, and are now unable to pay their bills. Maybe they have left abusive relationships and are still unable to stand on their own feet. Or perhaps they are just caught up in a cycle of poverty that started with their parents or grandparents, and simply don’t know how to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps.”

The more fortunate among us – those with jobs that pay a living wage – can do a little more this Thursday than offer gratitude to a higher power for our own circumstances. When we look at others surviving through “government handouts,” we need to remind ourselves it could happen to anyone: As the saying goes, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

And those who are so sheltered that they don’t know anyone in dire straits need only look back at the Daily Press over the past several days and read about the folks who live at Stepping Stones, the rooming house about to be closed by the city.

This year, instead of just writing off low- or no-income neighbors as deadbeats, why not take a closer look and see what you can do to help? Or if you can’t or won’t help, why not at least resist the urge to judge? Many who profess to be people of faith are the first to condemn, though that goes against scripture – just as surely as helping one’s neighbor is in accordance with scripture.

Many of us have much to be thankful for; others do not. Those of us lucky enough to have a fabulous spread this Thursday need to give that some thought.