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COMMENTARY: Giving Thanks and Giving Help

On Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season that follows, we count our blessings. As we do so, it is also important to remember those who may be less fortunate, both in our neighborhoods and around the world.

At a recent meeting of a bipartisan, nondenominational prayer breakfast that convenes when the House of Representatives is in session, David Beasley gave the featured remarks. Formerly a governor of South Carolina, he now serves as executive director of the World Food Programme fighting hunger around the globe. This agency was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 9 in recognition of its work to feed people in 88 countries.

The Nobel Prize has brought attention to the fight against hunger at a critical time. The coronavirus pandemic added a layer of difficulty to feeding the world atop the food insecurities that already existed.

Before the pandemic, in 2019, almost 135 million people suffered from acute hunger. The World Food Programme estimates that the number could reach 270 million by the end of this year.

Reports from the World Food Programme have noted how economic shutdowns provoked by the pandemic worsen poverty and could cause more people to die than COVID-19 itself. World Bank projections indicate that up to 150 million additional people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2021.

Shutdowns can put people out of work and interrupt the supply chains that bring people the nutrition they need. Shutting down schools also denies children access to school meals – a report in April noted that 370 million children were thus deprived at the time. Certain countries in Africa and the Middle East are most susceptible to these tragic outcomes.

The United States is fortunate not to face the dire extremes of poverty and hunger that too many in other countries confront every day. Ours is a land of plenty, even if we are not immune to hardships. This is a fact that the early European settlers of the eastern United States, including the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony, would recognize.

Last year was the 400th anniversary of the Thanksgiving celebration at Berkeley Hundred in Virginia.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower, but next year is the 400th anniversary of the Thanksgiving of the Pilgrims. After arriving in present-day Massachusetts on November 9, 1620, they had to endure a grim winter of cold, starvation, and disease. Yet they also met members of the local Wampanoag tribe who taught them how to plant corn and where to find the best hunting and fishing spots.

The Thanksgiving celebrated by Plymouth Colony in 1621 came out of both the harshness of that first winter and the bounty and peace of the next year.

When Thanksgiving was first instituted as a regular national holiday in 1863, the country was locked in a bitter civil war. Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation in gratitude for the country’s blessings even as the war’s toll mounted with no end in sight.

We would do well today to remember these examples. They took place amid widespread hardship and tragedy, yet they helped define the way we observe Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving this year can best be celebrated by remembering our blessings and remembering those who may not seem so blessed. This may take the form of contributing to the alleviation of hunger abroad, as the World Food Programme does, or to the reduction of hunger and want closer to home.

Around Virginia’s Ninth District, I have been honored to meet and know many who make helping others the cause of their lives. From food banks to charitable health clinics, the people who work or volunteer at these sites and contribute to their missions are performing good works for our families, friends, and neighbors, and they continue their labors amid the pandemic. They are among the many blessings I am grateful for this Thanksgiving.

As a Member of Congress, I cannot solicit donations for specific groups in this official newsletter, but I trust that the charitable organizations and causes in your community are not hard to find.

I wish you and your family a safe, peaceful, and blessed Thanksgiving.

Congressman Morgan Griffith

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