by L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr., Special to The New Tri-State Defender
(Editor’s Note: The following has been updated from its original publication in November 2018)
The term actualize means to make a reality by action. If we are to really celebrate Thanksgiving 2018, let us transform the celebration into an action plan.
The thing to do is focus on the needs of others in the context of our own blessings. If we are blessed with sufficient food, make efforts to help those without food.
While on tour in Senegal, West Africa, I noticed our tour guide, Baba, would greet us each morning with two bags of food. He ate from one bag and then distributed sandwiches and fruit to the homeless from the other. I was greatly impressed and realized Baba was actualizing his faith – “caring for the less fortunate.”
I resolved to follow the example of our tour guide when I returned to Memphis. We have so many homeless individuals here.
In my efforts I would stop at a fast food place and purchase two bags of food, mostly breakfast sandwiches or lunch combos. Each time I passed out this food of charity, I felt the thrill of altruism. It is a spirited rush and often the feeling brought me to tears; tears of joy and thanksgiving.
During that time, I often reflected, “but for the Grace of God go I,” meaning I could be homeless and hungry.
Another way to actualize Thanksgiving is to help the Mid-South Food Bank.
Still another is to help persons at checkout counters struggling to find enough money to pay for their groceries or gas. For example, if you are filling up your car with gas and someone in front of you is buying two or three dollars worth, you can supplement their purchase by reducing your fill-up by five dollars. I promise you, you will never miss the five dollars nor ever run out of gas.
The opioid crisis provides us with an abundance of opportunities to actualize Thanksgiving. Go to your closet, pull out those coats and jackets that you no longer wear and distribute them to our sisters and brothers on our street corners.
If we are blessed to have sufficient housing, let us support the homeless shelters and provide a food patrol for the homeless. On freezing nights we can help transport individuals to shelters, provide blankets or pay for a motel room.
In the case of churches and places of worship, we can transport the homeless to our empty buildings and turn up the heat.
Simply put, we can actualize Thanksgiving by doing three things: Honor God, serve others and enjoy life.
We honor God by obeying His Word, trusting His promise of provisions and becoming a witness to His goodness. God said in His Word, “give to the poor and you shall have treasures in heaven.” Not only in heaven but you can have treasures in the here and now. I read in the Holy Writ, “give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.”
Actualization is a powerful concept when applied to every facet of life, especially Thanksgiving. When love is actualized it ceases to be a noun and becomes a verb. Love is validated by the action that we take.
The actualization of Thanksgiving must be energized by the spirit of altruism. Altruism, in its classical meaning, is the unselfish regard or concern for the well being of others. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If I stop to help someone in distress, my concern should not be what will happen to me if I stop, but rather what will happen to that person if I do not stop.”
It may well be that we can actualize Thanksgiving through the demonstration of thankful living.
(This is one in a series of periodic columns by the Rev. Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr., pastor emeritus of New Sardis Missionary Baptist Church.)