They come in a line; we dish out the holiday meal. They are far away; we mail them nice care packages. They are alone; we warmly gather them together.
We are generous in our efforts to ensure the downtrodden have a happy holiday. Our senses of goodness and rightness prevail; our own bounty pricks our conscience and stirs our sentimentality. Thus we share.
However these acts are for today, the holiday. As sincere as we may be the core outcome is starkly direct, "Happy holiday today but tomorrow get back to being poor."
This is not a condemnation of our individual generosity. This is not meant to criticize the spiritual or ethical impulses that drive our holiday benevolence. It is to prompt asking the greater questions.
Why do we condone throughout the long year of many hundreds of days the exclusion of the gifts that we so willingly and with moral concern bestow on a single day? Why is our eradication of the most visible outward conditions of poverty by alleviating hunger, satisfying small needs and sharing joys, sharing warmth and fellowship, and the extension of care limited to a handful of hours?
We only give so much, individually.
Our cares are individual and expressed through our volunteer organizations in these holiday efforts. And these generous actions are inherently good. And these resource strapped organizations that express our individual benevolence toil throughout many of the other year’s days to address the needs of the poor are also good. But our greatest organization at our disposal, the organizing fabric of our society that is under our collective control, our political and economic system is not bent toward the eradication of poverty.
Eradicating poverty in this nation is not complicated but it is a real choice we make about how we command our national resources and wealth. We have chosen one path that is ineffectual at best or negligent at worse and now it remains to be seen if we will ever gather the courage to chose to control of our collective destiny so we can say, “Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, everyday.