This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for America’s generosity and unprecedented charitable giving.
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all of the things we are thankful for. This seems particularly important now at the end of the second year marked by an unprecedented pandemic and restrictions. The past year has also been marked by numerous abuses of government powers with lasting consequences. American dissatisfaction is incredibly high, and some researchers fear that for the first time in over 150 years, we may be headed for an epic downfall.
Despite all of these problems, if you take a moment to think about it, people’s kindness and charity remains so abundant that gratitude is warranted.
This summer, I lost my mother. She was a wonderful person and one of the best moms ever. (I realize I’m biased, but I’m also serious.) She was generous and funny, intellectually curious, and so easy to please. Although living in France, far from me and my daughters, she was infallibly present in our lives. This was still true even in the past two years, when her chronic illness and travel bans kept us from being together. For example, she hosted FaceTime cooking sessions with her granddaughters to teach them the art of baking macaroons and chocolate breads.
To say that I was heartbroken by his passing is the deepest understatement. However, I cannot think of this time without feeling the most sincere sense of gratitude to my friends, colleagues and even strangers who went out of their way to make this loss easier for my daughters and I.
During this time, they prayed and never left me even though an ocean and six hours of jet lag separated us. Even friends that I hadn’t seen in years addressed warm words to me. They sent me letters telling me about their own experiences, which gave me confidence that everything would be fine. Upon my return to the United States, I found a care box with vodka and bourbon (my two liqueurs of choice), a DoorDash gift card, and other thoughtful gifts.
As grateful as I am to my friends, I will be forever touched by my professional colleagues. They were flexible with me and my daughters as we stayed in France longer than planned to attend my mother’s funeral. Some coworkers canceled any plans they had to take care of our cats so I didn’t have to worry about it. A colleague of mine sent a poem by Victor Hugo in French which was so moving that my youngest daughter read it in the service of her grandmother. Beautiful hydrangeas, my mother’s favorite flowers, were planted in my garden to remind me that life goes on and that there is so much beauty in the world. And a few days later, Memphis Barbecue was sent to us knowing that there is no state of hopelessness or lack of appetite in which I would turn down ribs and pulled pork.
What this tough time reminded me was that no matter how ugly our country’s politics get, this nation is still made up of millions of people who care deeply about each other. We could, of course, see this during the pandemic when people went out of their way to help their older neighbors, restaurants took action to take care of their communities, churches fed the underprivileged, and investors took action. spent millions of dollars to find answers to alleviate the crisis.
At the end of the day, I am very grateful to live in a country where we are rich enough that people have the luxury of taking care of each other. But this care goes beyond helping and comforting those we know. We can also see it in the scale of charitable giving in America. Philanthropy Monitor Giving USA reported that in 2020, “individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations donated approximately $ 471.44 billion to U.S. charities.” This number was both unprecedented and unexpected.
In the United States, we are fortunate that charitable giving and selflessness are so ingrained in our history and culture. As we know from reporting by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville, the unique civic and economic role of volunteerism and charity has been at the heart of American culture for centuries.
For this tradition, I am grateful.
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