Life throws so many curves and gives us anxiety after anxiety. Although challenges are part of the human condition, it is—nevertheless—quite exasperating. Sadly, I hear so many stories of those who are down on their luck, who have lost jobs, who have no economic security, who live in war zones, and who are threatened each and every day. Then, I look at my worries and feel a bit ashamed at my anxieties.
And immediately, I thank the Lord God for His tremendous blessings.
But, that can't be enough. I can't be happy for myself upon the back of other's misfortunes. There has to be more that I can do, that I must do. That is the essence of Thanksgiving. I am putting aside the nice, little (and largely false) children's story of why we celebrate Thanksgiving here in America. It is the theme and purpose of the holiday that is most important.
Giving thanks is more than lip service. Giving thanks to the Lord is action; it is doing what you can to help those who are less fortunate than we are. In our society, in our world today, a culture of extreme selfishness has taken hold, and I have not been immune to that tendency. But, if one is to be truly thankful, then one must help those who cannot help themselves.
Here in Chicago, there is a turkey drive run by some Muslim friends of mine, where they are trying to raise money to distribute 750 turkeys to Chicagoans in need on the south side of the city.As it says on their website, "The likeness of those who spend their wealth in Allah's ways [for good deeds] is as the likeness of a grain which grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He wills. Allah is all-embracing and all knowing" (Quran 2:261). Spending our wealth for those in need only will increase our blessings, insha'Allah. I try to contribute what I can; it is the very least I can do to help this Thanksgiving. We must all try to help others, each one of us who can.
That is what it means to be truly grateful. That is the true essence of Thanksgiving.