For many years my family has taken Thanksgiving trips to warm places in the Caribbean. It’s a massive undertaking involving about 30 people who come together from their homes and colleges around the country.
This year our plans were dashed because of hurricane damage. As an alternative the group traveled to a country resort in Vermont.
Many of the attendees were skeptical about the change in venue. In a tropical setting most of our time is spent on the beach or around the pool basking in the warm sunshine. This year we found ourselves in a much chillier environment.
The patriarch and matriarch of the family, after conferring with several other members of the family, decided to include two community service activities on our agenda. The reception by the attendees was tepid at first.
At one event we served a meal to a community of churchgoers. A free turkey dinner with all the fixings was available to anyone in the local area. The crowd included many elderly couples and a few families had young children. It was an opportunity for them to dodge the cost and hassle of preparing a dinner in their own homes. A side benefit was the time spent with their neighbors.
The event was anything but fancy as food was served on paper plates and drinks in plastic cups. Nevertheless the diners and the priest who led this flock were really grateful.
The other community service project was a bit more traditional and beneficial to people in need. We went to a Habitat for Humanity site and spent the day building a house and associated infrastructure that would service it.
Each member of our crew was given a job that frankly no one had any experience doing heretofore. We nailed aluminum siding on a house, put up sheet rock and prepared the sidewalks for a delivery of cement. It was tedious and backbreaking work. For one thing it gave us a sense of the daily grind of construction workers as they build and maintain America.
The most important thing was that three generations in our family worked together in a way that helped those less fortunate. These experiences were beneficial to all, young and old. And they were in the spirit of the holiday season, during which commercialism and gifting often masks the true meaning of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa.
Eating turkey, watching football and being with family are important. Giving something back to the community was priceless.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that the resort was located near an area that had many outlet stores. The bargains were amazing and most of us took home more clothes than we arrived with.