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Thanksgiving is more than a good meal

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It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, the traditional kickoff of our holiday season.
Our national day of giving thanks dates back to 1621 in Massachusetts, where we believe the Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated a successful harvest with food and festivities.
Given our economic situation, some in modern-day America may find it difficult to give thanks, but we still have much to be thankful for – health and family and freedom, to name a few.
In these days of escalating medical costs, if you have your health, you’re blessed.
If you have family to share the holidays with, you’re truly blessed. This year, those with military ties can be thankful for the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, which means more soldiers will be spending the holidays at home instead of in tents in the desert.
We’ve been reminded this year, with the Arab Spring and all the frantic fighting for freedom there, that  freedom comes with a cost. So we should be grateful for the freedoms we take for granted.
Gather with your family and friends Thursday and take time to share your blessings with them. Take turns going around the table to share what it is you’re thankful for, besides the feast in front of you.
If you need a primer on gratefulness, ask some children what they are thankful for – you’ll find it’s mostly family, friends, God and food – the very basics many of us overlook every day.
Take time to enjoy the traditions that make the day special to your family, whether that means watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade,  football or a favorite holiday movie, playing games, taking a long walk to work off all those extra calories or just catching up with relatives you rarely see.
For many, once the dishes are done from the Thanksgiving feast, it’s time to head to the mall to start Christmas shopping in earnest. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, when retailers cross their fingers in hope of big sales that will put them in the black for the year.
But for the 15 percent of Lancaster County residents who are unemployed, as well as the many who are  underemployed, Friday’s shopping frenzy is likely not a priority. Many have lost their jobs, exhausted their benefits and face home foreclosures. For them, this may not be shaping up to be a great Thanksgiving.
We need to remember them as this holiday season begins. We need to show love, support, compassion, encouragement and real help when they need it. It’s up to those of us with fuller wallets and pantries to share with them, as well as the elderly and shut-ins who need help.
Lancaster County is fortunate to have several organizations that help people in need, such as Belair United Methodist Church in Indian Land, KARE in Kershaw, HOPE in Lancaster and Christian Services, which operate food pantries and help provide other basic needs. These organizations need our support year-round, but especially at this time of the year, as do efforts like  the Ward Faulkenberry Christmas Basket, Christian Services’ Angel Tree, Toys for Tots and other similar holiday drives. We encourage you to do what you can to help support these organizations and holiday drives.
You can make your support personal by helping a relative or neighbor, too. Invite them over to have Thanksgiving dinner with your family or take them food from your table. Sharing is really what Thanksgiving is all about.
However you celebrate the day, remember to be thankful for your blessings, whatever they may be.
Happy Thanksgiving.