Thanksgiving is an awesome opportunity for gratitude. It’s also an awesome opportunity for giving.
I feel very blessed to live in the United States. We have so many resources. This is not something that I take for granted. A lot of Americans don’t really think about this, but it isn’t our choice to be born here. We get to be born here. That’s a huge reason to give thanks.
It wasn’t somebody’s choice to be born in Uganda, where a baby’s mom has no breast milk because her body doesn’t have the nutrients to create it. In places all over the world, babies lack what they need from the moment they are born. This isn’t their choice, any more than it was your choice or mine to be born in an amazing country like the United States.
A few years ago, this hit me hard. Before that, I didn’t even think about it. Of course I knew about organizations like Compassion International. I’d heard about sponsoring a child. I would hear about the problems of poverty and say, “Man, that stinks.”
But then I’d go about my day. There wasn’t anything in my heart that responded and asked, “How do we help?”
So I don’t judge or condemn anybody who reads about poverty, or sees it on TV, and says, “Oh man, that stinks,” before forgetting about it again. I’ve done that. It doesn’t make you a bad person.
It only changed for me when I started to understand what poverty is really like. I started to research it. I wanted to know what it’s like to live in areas where hunger and disease are ways of life, and reading gave me the awareness and understanding that I wanted.
That’s when I realized that more people have to know. So I started talking about it. I searched for opportunities to share what I learned. I wanted other people to experience the same heart response. I wanted more people to ask, “How do we help?”
I looked at the early church. The first Christians sold the extra things they had and shared the proceeds. Richer Christians with two houses sold one and used what they got to help their neighbors. That way, everybody had enough.
The first Christians truly understood the concept of love. They understood the concept of pure love. Not the kind of love where you say “I love people,” but you don’t do anything. The early church definitely talked about love, but they also showed it. They shared so that everybody had enough.
That’s been a big thing in my family. We give. I talk about poverty, but that’s not enough for me. I want to help alleviate it.
How do I do that? One way is to help build wells for communities that lack access to clean water.
Water is one of the sources of life. It might be the source of life. We don’t always understand that here in the U.S. We can actually say, “I don’t feel like water right now. Give me a Diet Coke instead.”
If you said that in a poverty area, it would be shocking! If you said, “I hate water, I’d rather have a Coke,” they’d say, “What? You don’t like water? Give me your water, then!”
People are dying for lack of water, while we get to say, “I don’t feel like that kind of water. I’ll have another kind, thanks.”
We truly do live in the land of opportunity. That’s why we have to help our neighbors. We have to help people! Not everyone has the same blessings, resources and wealth. They need us.
What happens when we help? We reflect Jesus into the world, that’s what. We create love. We create peace.
We can actually do that. It’s not even hard! Just remember one small thing. When you give thanks, give.
I am the author of To Stir a Movement: Life, Justice, and Major League Baseball (2013), and my second book is in the works. Visit my Huffington Post page here. I blog here. Follow me on Instagram & Twitter: @JeremyAffeldt.