Sparked by Words

Posts tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Praying Thankful


As we approach the holiday season, please remember the thousands who have lost members of their families, their homes and possessions, their entire communities, to fires still raging in California.

Say a prayer in the language of your heart, write a check to assist the many who have lost everything, and express gratitude to the exhausted first responders still on the frontlines trying to quell the flames and assist those who have been stricken.

To be truly thankful is not only to account for your own blessings but to realize that so many are injured, harrowed, and grieving, and then to share your bounty.

If your celebration this year finds you dining at a table of cinders, sobbing at an open gravesite, bereft of all but the charity of strangers, please know I wish you a future.



Just a thought 57


Sorrow by Vincent Van Gogh, courtesy Wikimedia Commons




May you find your life as abundant as the stars in heaven, may you share your wealth with others, may others invite you into their embrace, and may all of us reap the bounty of a plentiful harvest of health, hope, happiness, and hearth.


Just a thought 17


Image courtesy


Thanksgiving 2017

We live in the eucalyptus woods of Lake Forest in Orange County, California, solidly middle class and a place we could not afford at today’s prices. We locked in to this gracious neighborhood of family focus, great schools, varied public and private services, and healthy businesses more than 30 years ago. This past two months we cleaned the house, packed up anything worth donating, threw out barrels of useless stuff that we wondered why we’d saved. We fixed and painted, scrubbed and polished. Organized in its new beauty, showing off its books, photos, and knickknacks, the house glows. We’re ready for the holidays, for our out of town guests. This will be the first in about 15 years that both our sons and their families will be together for Thanksgiving along with extended family and friends. The bright and shining face of comfort, we’re ready to celebrate our bounty.

Nearly 200 homeless people, many of them family groups, live around the Plaza of the Flags in downtown Santa Ana, our county seat. The area bridges the Orange County Superior Court building and the public law library. Nearby is the main branch of the distinguished Santa Ana Public Library and Santa Ana City Hall. None of the campers really want to live here but they can’t afford the high county rent. The encampment is an embarrassment, a haven for filth and disease, used syringes and empty bottles and cans. For discarded and broken toys, torn sweatshirts and trash. For vermin. For excrement. It’s a dirty, scary place to walk past as I did last year on my way to serve jury duty. It’s a failure of individual responsibility and self control, of inability to delay gratification or accept consequences, of unwillingness to apply oneself to education and work ethic. It’s a total failure of parenting skills. And it’s  not the image of public pride we’d like to project but the face of policy failure we can’t seem to resolve.

Some but not all of the adults work for low paying wages at jobs with inconsistent schedules. And yes, some are drug addicts, alcoholics, lowlifes and criminals – but not the children. The children are innocent and active, yearning for play, hoping for education. Like our four grandchildren. Like yours. Orange County officials are trying to clean up the encampment but if they deal with this problem by forcing these people out with no place else to go, then they simply foist the problem onto some other community. Resolution is not barricading Civic Center. It’s building temporary safe houses and long term opportunity. It’s people remembering their childhood goals and deciding to change themselves.

My family is eating lots of healthy food over this week of Thanksgiving. Everything traditional you can think of (most homemade by our many family cooks and bakers,) also sushi, pizza, and a variety of ethnic foods (most from local restaurants.) We love it all and we pick at the leftovers whenever we want a snack. Every year as part of my temple’s outreach program we collect hundreds of cans and boxes of food items to donate, along with grocery gift certificates, to help 200 low income families. Thanksgiving is one of about a dozen times during the year that we mount a formal collection – school supplies in September, clothing, books, eyeglasses, personal hygiene items, toys. Throughout the year we donate food and more food, because a meal eaten today doesn’t feed a person tomorrow. We write checks to service organizations whose mission is to help those who are ill, hungry, without homes. These low income people don’t live a few counties over. They live here in Orange County. They’re my neighbors. And yours.

We aren’t rich. We do without vacations, expensive hair care, manicures, gardeners, maid service, updates on the house, sometimes even without needed repairs. Remodeling our house is a daydream. Tickets to live theater or sporting events are out of the question. Until two months ago I drove a nineteen-year-old car but when it became dangerous, we purchased a newer used one. I don’t have to get around on a bicycle or on public transportation, and if I walk, it’s to enhance my health, not because there’s no other way. We do without luxuries, things by their definition no one needs. Our personal situation was built of hard work and bonuses of good luck. We have everything necessary for a decent life. We are rich in family, friends, and opportunities.

On Thursday when we sit with our two sons and two daughters-in-law, with our four grandchildren, and our extended family around a table graced with candles and goblets, we will say thanks for this bounty. But I will remember those whose lives are less secure, whose meal was cooked over a camp stove or eaten from greasy paper sheets while they hunkered on a cement slab in Civic Center. The crime is not that I can’t fix the problem. It’s  a crime if I don’t recognize their humanity, if I call them “other,” “other” being a designation of less worth. Yesterday I donated food. Today I wrote a check. Tomorrow I will give clothing. Next month I will donate toys. What we have is not extravagant. What we have is immensely extravagant bounty. I am deeply grateful.

May you always celebrate in joy and health with your family and loved ones. One day may everyone.





Image of homeless girl courtesy of



More than Enough


We came together last night, a community of Christians, Moslems, and Jews, united by the cries of hunger we heard from around the world. God has not been able to get us to come together in peace, but the rumbles of hungry stomachs did. For a few hours several hundred of us from three congregations gathered around tables laden with soy protein, vitamin packets, dried vegetables, and rice. We packed 12,000 simple but nutritious meals to be sent to those who cannot feed themselves. We don’t know exactly where they’re going – to underserved areas of the United States, or to India, Africa, South America, Mexico, or someplace we never considered. There are so many communities of hungry people. There are so many individuals who do not have sufficient food.

Twelve thousand people will soon eat, nothing fancy but just enough to keep them from starving. Maybe long enough for someone to figure out a long term solution to end hunger, to enroll these hungry people in programs that will resolve their tenuous situations forever. Most likely these meals will stave off hunger for one day but the pangs will be back too soon. The cries of children, the moans of old people, the pleas of those who cannot fill their family’s larder will return quickly.

If you saw us last evening, you saw folks of all ages, in yarmulkes, hijab, or bareheaded, with stars or crosses around necks or merely the collars of ordinary clothing, standing shoulder to shoulder in one room. We were Republicans, Democrats, Independents, unaffiliated, and those too disgusted with the system to take part in any way other than to spit at the idea of elections. Children came with their parents, seniors carpooled, and more than one family showed up with at least three generations of folks who participated. We talked about how good it felt to feed the hungry, to know that we’ve turned our words of altruism into action that someone else will feel in their bellies. Our good fortune will be someone else’s well being.

After the bags had been packed, counted, and boxed, we gathered in the sanctuary and participated in a multi-faith service. Choirs sang, uplifting our spirits with possibility the way that only voices united in song can imbue. Lay people spoke eloquent words from Maya Angelou, Gandhi, and Albert Einstein. Clergy of all three faiths described the relationship with God that commands all of us to come together as community and care for each other, to care for strangers, to feed the hungry. We heard passages from Quran, Torah, and the Old and New Testaments, words that praised God in God’s many names, speeches that noted how much we are connected. We celebrated how alike we are, how similar our prayers, our texts, our desire to see everyone cared for.

Terrorists, anarchists, agitators did not attend. We did not leave them out so much as they are uninterested in the idea of community gathered without the grasp for power and control. They left themselves out. There was no security present that evening. It was unnecessary.

Luxury is a word none of would use to describe ourselves and yet we all live in luxury. We have enough in so many ways, more than enough, a plethora of riches that are embarrassing to list. The list would be too long, in any case. All of us went home last evening to full pantries, to overloaded refrigerators, to tables waiting to be laden with a bounty of food that will make us ache well into the night of Thanksgiving. No matter our dietary proscriptions, today we will all overeat.

Black Friday beckons for many who will rush to shop on Friday and all weekend, stocking up on toys and devices, clothing and tools, chocolates and wine. The lists of those to whom we choose to bestow our gifts are long and we are a generous society.

I suggest that you buy one gift less. That you shop one hour less. That you take out your credit card one time less. That instead, you write one check and send it to any organization that feeds the hungry. Lots of worthy non-profits do good work. Some attend to local programs, others to countries overseas. Choose one and send them something. It needn’t be a huge check, because if someone is hungry, a small donation will let them eat. Send a hundred dollars, and if you can’t afford that much, send ten, and if that is too much, send a dollar. A dollar will buy a carton of milk, an apple, a yogurt cup. Imagine – all that goodness for one dollar.

It is painful to go to sleep on Thanksgiving night and know that all over the world, children will lay down with tummies that hurt. One dollar cannot feed every child. Your gift for one dollar will not loosen the purse strings of the miserly rich. It will not make the skies rain or the crops grow larger. But that one dollar will feed someone tonight, or tomorrow. And it will be more than enough.

It doesn’t matter how you pray, in what language, with what book, or even if not at all, but be truly thankful for all that you have. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and may you be blessed with an abundance of friends, family, and good fortune, enough to enjoy, enough to share, enough to pay it forward in memory of those who once gave to you…

more than enough.


Image courtesy,, public images