Giving for a better world

Published 8:57 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In the great scheme of things, a single Thanksgiving dinner probably won’t make all that much difference. One family might be fed, but many thousands more around the country will go hungry today, and still more will face Friday and the weekend without a clear knowledge of how food will be put on the table. Surely, there is plenty of suffering in the world, and the small good deed of a small group of people here in Suffolk will hardly put a dent in that suffering.

None of that, however, held back a group of emergency dispatchers this week when they carried a turkey and all the fixin’s for Thanksgiving dinner to the Suffolk home of Barbara Jefferson and her five children. What mattered to them was that they had the means and the desire to help a family, and they were able to find the Jeffersons and meet their needs.

People helping people is kind of a Thanksgiving tradition. Whichever version of the history of Thanksgiving you acknowledge — the Virginia version or the Massachusetts one — North America’s native population played an important role in assuring that one day people of European descent would be around to celebrate Thanksgiving in America. Without the Native Americans’ help, Europeans would have starved to death in Jamestown, and history would forever have been altered.

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We often look for the chance to contribute money or time to causes that help organizations or groups of people. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of help; billions of people throughout history have benefited from such social largesse. But humans are most effective at spreading humanity when they help one another on a personal level, much like the dispatchers finding a family that needed help and putting together their resources to provide that help. Such personal philanthropy encourages personal connections and results in blessings that enrich the lives of both the giver and the receiver.

Look around you. There are seemingly infinite opportunities to follow the dispatchers’ examples this holiday season and beyond. Find someone who needs your help, and then do something personal, even if it’s only a small gesture, like providing a meal.

If you do so, there’s a good chance that you’ll find as much reason to be thankful for the giving as your beneficiary has to be thankful in the receiving. In the process, you will have relieved the suffering of another, even if only a little. And that’s how each of us can help build a better world.