November is harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere. It is when we harvest the last fruits of our labor before the cold and quiet of winter sets in. It is a time of abundance and for giving thanks.
In the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving in November. It is one of the most traveled times of the year as families gather to share a meal and reconnect with relatives. Culturally it is a reenactment of a founding story of the Nation.
Americans like to think of ourselves as independent and self-sufficient, however, the truth is that we cannot survive without the help of others. The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of thanks for the help that the Pilgrims received from the Wampanong people. The pilgrims were not — contrary to the American myth — able to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps.” They needed help — charity really — from the Wampanong in order to survive the harsh New England winter.
Sadly, today, in an abundant Nation like the US, families struggle to get by. Families are one of the most economically challenged demographics in the US. Families, the people who are raising the next generation of Americans, are barely able to make ends meet. Like those first pilgrims, families are doing everything they can to survive but it isn’t enough. They need help.
The good news is that here — in Hawaii County — there is some help available. In this last year, Neighborhood Place of Puna helped 26 families move out of homelessness and into stable housing. The Interfaith Communities in Action made a commitment to raise money to address family homelessness. A Church in Kona started offering safe overnight parking for homeless families who are sleeping in their cars.
Are families still struggling? Absolutely! But — thanks to you — there is a little hope that things may be improving.
So this Thanksgiving, as I gather with family and friends, I will give thanks for this wonderful Hawaii Island community filled with caring people. I will give thanks for all of Neighborhood Place of Puna’s staff, friends and supporters — who are passionate about helping families. I will give thanks that I live in a place where we are all working together to build a more compassionate and caring community.