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Dale Strong: Thanksgiving is a celebration of giving as well as thanks

One of the first signs of autumn in North Alabama can be observed as the leaves on the trees turn to vibrant colors of red, yellow and orange. This significant splash of color all across the region is nature’s collage to remind us that summer is behind us on the calendar and winter will soon be heading our way.

It also marks the approach of Thanksgiving, the most American of holidays. While Americans share many holidays with nations all around the planet, the celebration of giving thanks and all of the traditions that we observe are unique revelries to our people.

Thanksgiving is the one time each calendar year that we pause in our busy lives to give thanks to recognize our bountiful blessings, but perhaps more importantly, celebrate the people around us that enrich our lives so much.

We gather around a home filled with cherished photographs that ensure memories will remain captured not only for the current time but will also stretch out for generations for future family members to be able to recall.

This is one reason I feel so fortunate. The Strong family has called Madison County home for eight generations. During each of those generations there have been joyous occasions – births, weddings, high school and college graduations. There have been baptisms and dedication ceremonies, all of which provide the opportunity to share God’s message of salvation at churches of many denominations.

All of these mark high points for family members and memories to share with great grandparents, grandparents, mom, dads, aunts and uncles, and untold numbers of cousins. Thanksgiving affords each of us the opportunity for families to gather together around a table with more than ample amounts of turkey, ham and dressing and pecan pie to reminisce of our blessings and strengthen the traditions that bind these generations of family members.

However, as important as it may seem to give thanks for all of our blessings, it is also significant that we take time to reflect on the vision that our nation’s founders had for America as well.

It was President Ronald Reagan who penned a series of Thanksgiving proclamations to focus the nation’s conscience on the real purpose for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Forty years ago, President Reagan wrote: “Americans have always understood that, truly, one must give in order to receive. Thanksgiving should be a day of giving as well as a day of thanks.”

With Reagan’s word guiding all of us, use those memories and thanks as a starting point to help others. Use the items listed below each day to find creative ways to make a difference to others. Volunteer to help make the holiday brighter for someone less fortunate:

  • Extend an invitation to someone who would welcome the company
  • Provide Thanksgiving dinner for a family in need
  • Make an extra meal to share this Thanksgiving season
  • Send a care package to soldiers overseas
  • Make a donation to a worthy charity
  • Visit a nursing home or hospital
  • Volunteer at a veteran’s home
  • Donate money or volunteer at a women’s shelter or an orphanage
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter
  • Sponsor a child in an impoverished country

May all of you help make a difference in someone’s life this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Dale Strong is chairman of the Madison County Commission.