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Monday, November 24, 2008

Recognize Even the Smallest of Blessings on Thanksgiving Day

Gathering Up Crumbs

Be careful with the crumbs.
Do not overlook them.

Be careful with the crumbs;
the little chances to love,

the tiny gestures, the morsels
that feed, the minims.

Take care of the crumbs;
a look, a laugh, a smile,

a teardrop, an open hand. Take care
of the crumbs. They are food also.

Do not let them fall.
Gather them. Cherish them.

-- Gunilla Norris, in Becoming Bread

2008's string of holidays stretches out before us.

Bittersweet, yet again, for so many. Another season of reflection and light finds many military family members once more a long ways away from loved ones serving overseas.

I can't help but think about them, how having that empty spot at the Thanksgiving table must dampen the intent of the holiday somewhat. While many of us at home are understandably worried these days about personal financial issues or greatly unnerved about the larger national economic crisis and all of the looming political change on the horizon, those in uniform continue their work. They also have their own worries. And for many deployed troops, the greatest source of anxiety is concern for those they leave behind while they're called away to serve.

Let's send them our good will and kind thoughts, and perhaps direct the same towards their loved ones right here at home with us, too. Even more, be grateful for each moment we have here in this world together...even the ones we may consider "the crumbs."

Even in the face of difficulty, or amidst the trials of day-to-day life. Even if we're momentarily separated -- especially if we're momentarily separated -- let's be thankful for what we have. Even in light of so many with so little, there is bounty to be found in the moments we persevere and extend ourselves to each other.

Thinking of you, friends, this Thanksgiving.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

From WCCO Radio: Minnesota troops stationed in Iraq say hello to their families back home during the Thanksgiving holiday:

A few timely stories I wanted to share with you, all showing the power of what one can do to make a difference in the lives of many. I hope you find them as heartwarming and inspiring as I did.

First up, from Channel 9 News-NBC [Littleton, CO]:

In her classroom at Chatfield High School, Sharon McManus prepares her students for life. "We just try to prepare them as best we can," said McManus. Her students don't always have it easy. While they have varying levels of challenges, all are special needs students.

Some struggle in one subject or another. All need the extra attention to learning that McManus brings. She uses a variety of teaching techniques to help each student develop. "I teach math using supermarket math. Stuff you use in everyday life," she said.

McManus is passionate about her students. She is also passionate about something else: her son Eddie, a U.S. Marine. McManus's respect for the military and her desire to come up with innovative ideas to help her students learn came together in the form of a class project.

She wanted her students to think of someone else and give of themselves.

"With teenagers in general it's, 'Me, me, me. What can I get? What are you going to do for me?'" said McManus. She wanted her students to learn about the importance of giving to others so McManus found 41 military veterans at Fort Carson facing a Thanksgiving with no meal. She connected them with her students.

The students embraced the idea and have spent the past few weeks collecting food items to fill Thanksgiving baskets for the veterans. They took that supermarket math McManus taught them and took it to a real supermarket. They came up with everything from turkeys to stuffing and vegetables and desserts. The students left nothing off the Thanksgiving menu for the veterans.

The efforts of the students will provide a tangible way of saying thank you to the veterans for their service to this country. The program will also provide the students with an appreciation of what it is like to help others who have a special need.

"To see their growth in going from a feeling where they need to be taken care of to knowing that they have the power to take care of somebody else. It is the best feeling to see that happen," said McManus.

The students enjoyed participating in the project so much they are already planning to put together Christmas baskets for the veterans next month. McManus says they will keep working to provide baskets as long as there is a need.

Josie McCormick writes in the [Zanesville, OH] Times Recorder:

More than 100 hundred veterans will have a happy Thanksgiving this year thanks to Freedom Isn't Free Inc. The new non-profit, charitable organization plans to give out 100 Thanksgiving dinner boxes to veterans in Zanesville and $500 worth of turkeys to veterans in New Lexington this Sunday.

"I started my company about two and a half months ago because there are so many others out there that say they help veterans, but don't," said Robert Rose, president of Freedom Isn't Free, Inc. Rose, a Zanesville resident, served in the Vietnam War with the Marines.

"I want to prove that my organization will help," he said.

The dinner boxes, which include turkey and all the trimmings, [were] handed out at noon Sunday from a U-Haul in the parking lot of Kroger on Maple Avenue and the turkeys will be passed out at 9 a.m. Sunday at Save A Lot on North Main Street in New Lexington.

"They'll be able to take home the boxed dinners and prepare them so their whole family can eat," Rose said. Next year he hopes to expand the project he's named Operation Gobble Feed. "We'd like to hit five counties instead of just two next year," Rose said. "It just all depends on how much money we get."

The whole project cost $3,000 but it would have been more if it wasn't for U-Haul donating the truck and gas and Nickles donating dinner roles.

"They were wonderful people and I'm going to make sure the veterans know they helped," Rose said. He also is pleased with the support Freedom Isn't Free Inc. received when it asked the public for donations.

"We were very happy with most places we went to in Muskingum County and think we'll receive even more when people find out we are for real," Rose said.

In addition to its Thanksgiving Day project, Freedom Isn't Free, Inc. also plans to provide veterans with financial assistance with utilities and again sponsor an essay contest for children. The first contest it held was for third, fourth and fifth graders in Muskingum County who were asked, "What is a veteran?"

"I was really moved by them," Rose said. "They'll bring tears to your eyes.

And from Donna Teresa's Homefront Journal:

Keith King served in the U.S. Army from 1969-71 with the 18th Brigade, 218th and 630th MP companies serving in Nha Trang and Cam Ranh Bay in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

Today, King owns and operates his own advertising agency. He is the president of the Veterans Support Foundation, which provides funds for homeless shelters, and the Veterans Against Drug Program. He also is the national public affairs chairman for the Vietnam Veterans of America. ...

As the father of Jeffrey King, a Desert Storm veteran with the 24th Mechanized Infantry, Keith King understands the concern and worry of parents who have children serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Love your child, tell them that you are proud of them, and send them letters, food, cards," King advises. "Let them know that they are coming back to a family where they will be accepted and loved. They will be changed and they may not be able to stay at home for long, but just having those thoughts in the back of their mind will make the time that they are away and the time they are in combat more bearable."

He is also concerned for those returning home from combat.

"Health care is always an issue for veterans, regardless of where we served. Health care is not only for physical health, it must include mental health treatment. Combat causes extreme mental issues, we are trained to kill the enemy and we see our friends get killed," King says.

"Then, when we come home we are told to forget it or held up to public ridicule for it. The stress and mental strain causes damage to our bodies and the self medication issues like drug and alcohol abuse must be addressed. The VA must help our combat veterans with their readjustment issues."

King has a special message to veterans. "If you are able to help your fellow veterans do it. I can tell you for as much as I have given, I've gotten back a hundred times more peace of mind and goodwill. If we don't help each other, no one else will. When you get hugged by a Gold Star mother for something you did to honor her child or a veteran gives you a hug, those hugs help heal your soul. I, like many Vietnam veterans hid our service. Don't let that happen a second time. These young people deserve our respect and heartfelt thanks."

When you sit around the table this Thanksgiving and count your blessings, please keep in your thoughts those families who have an empty chair at their table. Give thanks for these brave Americans who have served our country past and present.

Thank you, Keith King, for your giving spirit and kindness you have shown to our veterans and families.

Information on "The World's Largest Thanksgiving Dinner," a nationwide community-service project to raise funds to aid children and families affected by the war:

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