Let America’s holiday define America

Born six centuries ago in the revered lore of this country’s first white settlers and their native neighbors, Thanksgiving is pure Americana, and Americans treasure it, as is proven each year when it brings their families together like no other holiday.

Thanksgiving is documented to be the stimulus for more air, road and rail travel in the U.S. than any other event or holiday, even Christmas, with an estimated 55 million people traveling this week to be with loved ones and friends.

But it has a more important distinction. It is the motivating force for an outpouring of empathy, generosity and charity that we should hope defines America more accurately than the loud and at times bitter political and social strife for which the country is probably better known.

So many Americans get it: The spirit of Thanksgiving is as much about giving as it is about thanks. Readers of this newspaper have seen a lot of that lately.

An image of a man displaying obvious enjoyment over a bountiful pre-Thanksgiving meal with robust servings of turkey and the appropriate trimmings was a warm expression of the Thanksgiving spirit in last week’s cover photo. The dinners for dozens of people were provided by the Saukville Community Food Pantry, prepared by Lumen Christi’s St. Vincent de Paul Society and served by Girl Schools at Parkside Community Church in Saukville.

There was news of other acts of generosity, such as the offering by the food pantry of Family Sharing of Ozaukee County in Grafton of free takeout Thanksgiving meals, including frozen turkeys, to be cooked at home.

A letter to the editor with accompanying photos saluted the remarkable reaction of many people who read a Press news story reporting that the Port Washington Food Pantry was helping so many needy families that its shelves were almost bare. Pantry director Pat Kozak wrote that the response from the community with food donations was “overwhelming—our grocery carts were soon overflowing.”

It is not just nonprofit agencies and generous individuals, but also businesses that exemplify the giving aspect of the holiday, as was shown in a photographs illustrating donations of turkeys to Ozaukee County food pantries by Schmit Bros. Automotive, Bernie’s Fne Meats,  Hollrith Realty and Blau’s Saukville Meats.

Common in these examples is the role of food pantries, which not only provide for the needy, but demonstrate that the needy exist—and are struggling—even in the comfortable surroundings of our communities.

Though the pantries are community institutions, they are funded not by government, but by private and business donors, and they depend on volunteers to carry out their humane mission. They do this in an atmosphere of trust; their clients are generally not vetted for their neediness.

Government, of course, has an imperative to do its part to feed the hungry among its citizens, which is answered by the federal taxpayer funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, and Wisconsin’s version of it, Foodshare Wisconsin.

People have to prove they are poor according to federal poverty standards to receive this assistance, and the benefit, worth roughly $5 per person per family per day, is hardly lavish. Even so, food stamps are a perennial target of congressional critics, and it is all but certain that after the newly elected House of Representatives convenes, there will be a move to cut funding.

The so-called safety net—various types of government welfare assistance—has long been the subject of controversy. The debate it provokes has at times been acrimonious, even to the point where some who seek to limit the programs disparage those who receive the aid as “takers.”

Scrutinizing safety net programs for waste and fraud is proper, but it should not be used as an instrument to undermine the principle that a civilized society has an obligation to devote some its resources to uplifting the less fortunate among its members.

The giving part of Thanksgiving is bracing reassurance that many Americans understand that very well.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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