The realization began in the spring when a neighbor said she would be growing extra vegetables for families in need. Would I be willing to do the same? Since my 1,500-square-foot yard is part patio, part Japanese garden, part “orchard” and part “farm,” then of course. In August and September, we took bags of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, and green beans to the local food pantry. It’s a mile from our house, in the basement of a church rectory, in a neighborhood of large and beautiful old homes. 

Approximately 30 families visit this pantry each Tuesday. And most of them walk. They are our neighbors. When the “farm” ran out, we offered to supplement the pantry with food purchases. We got a list for Aldi’s. You would be amazed at how much food $100 buys — and how many people it feeds.

What if Thanksgiving were a verb?

Through most of September, I was working in Park Ridge. Also working in Park Ridge, on the corner of Higgins and Cumberland, was a 30-something young man with a cup in hand. One of my sons told me years ago that he always carries a dollar or two in the coin pocket of his jeans for just this occasion. I carry them on the dashboard of my truck. After multiple days and dollars, I asked him how much he makes on a good day. “About $60 a day. That covers my hotel and meals.” 

The next time you think this is a scam and these people are making hundreds of dollars a day, watch in your side-view mirror as they pass car after car after car with their windows rolled up. Somewhere it is written, “Whatever you do for the least of these …”

What if Thanksgiving were a verb?

Turkey farmers are very worried that they will be stuck with huge numbers of large turkeys because so many of us are cancelling our traditional big Thanksgiving dinners. While some families agonize over the risk and rewards of deciding to travel or not, others see chairs that will never again be occupied. 

Death is the final act in the human drama and it’s playing to full houses this year. While most of us will miss our get-togethers; there’s always next year. But for those who cannot look forward to filling those empty chairs “next” or any more years, can we pick someone and call, send flowers? Do something — anything — to help fill the hole in their hearts?

What if Thanksgiving were a verb?

As the days shorten and the weather turns too cold to sit out on the front porch, my wife and I end each day in front of our gas log fireplace with it’s warmth, a drink, and conversation about our day. But too many of our neighbors worry about simply keeping the heat on and the lights burning. There may be a moratorium on overdue utility bills but there is no moratorium on the worry.

So the church secretary suggests sending us a copy of someone’s utility bill with the name and address blacked out. We send her a check made out to the utility with the person’s account number on the check. She mails the check and bill. Privacy respected, worry reduced, donation’s intent assured. Church as Pay-Pal. Who knew it could be that simple?

What if Thanksgiving were a verb?

Many years ago I was one of several people delivering turkeys to needy families in Oak Park. I will never forget walking into an apartment not six blocks from my home, delivering the meal, and realizing there was not a single piece of furniture in either the living room or dining room. Not a single piece. Knowing Oak Park after 40 years of living here, I would venture a guess that a family had sacrificed everything to give their kids a safe place to live, great schools to attend, and a future that would be in every way better. 

Human needs are not limited to one day a year — or one turkey, or one donation, or one visit to a food pantry. Thanksgiving should not be a noun for a day.

What if Thanksgiving were a verb?

Twelve million people, who were sailing along just fine nine months ago, are now desperate and out of work. One hundred thousand businesses, large and small, are gone for good. Food lines stretch for blocks, if not miles. These are not Third World problems of some distant, invisible “others.” These are real problems for people who are family, friends, and neighbors. None of us can help millions, but if millions of us each helped just one, would Thanksgiving be a verb?

What if …

Bill Sieck is a remodeling contractor in Oak Park. He sent this to his customers and wanted to share it more widely.

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