It was President Lincoln who first proclaimed in 1863 a national Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Ever since then, we have kept this tradition.
Lincoln called forth this proclamation in the midst of a Civil War, when our nation was torn at the seams economically, politically, socially, and culturally. This day of Thanksgiving was a time to give thanks and praise to God in spite of such bitter hardships and challenging times.
Today, in 2011, we find our nation torn once again. Politically, our government seems paralyzed by partisan bickering; economically, many continue to struggle with unemployment and housing concerns; socially, we look at ourselves more and more as haves and have-nots; and culturally our nation continues to become more diverse.
In the midst of these troubling times, I believe there are opportunities to give thanks. As a pastor in Falls Church for nearly 12 years, I would like to share some of the things I am thankful for that I believe bind our citizens together in the city of Falls Church.
I give thanks for the governing bodies of our city which guide us by making hard decisions in difficult times. Though contentious at times, this is a small price for the democracy and freedom we all enjoy. Many opportunities are available throughout the year for citizens to express their opinions and desires.
I would like to share some of the things I am thankful for that I believe bind our citizens together in the City of Falls Church.
I give thanks for the city staff who work tirelessly day after day to provide the services we have come to enjoy (and expect): police and fire protection; the courts; administrators; library; community center; public works; and even leaf collection. What would we do with all those leaves if they were not picked up? The list goes on and on of the many valued services provided which many cities bigger than us don’t enjoy.
I give thanks for the schools. Our school system provides a challenging academic environment which helps our students to grow and excel. Our schools provide student activities in sports and particularly in the arts, which many school systems have curtailed. They provide us venues for sporting events, plays and musicals, and concerts. I enjoy being invited by parishioners to see their children in such events and activities.
I give thanks for small businesses located in the city. Their proximity allows us to be able to walk to meet our shopping needs. Many times in our shopping experience, we find time to enjoy conversations with fellow shoppers who are neighbors and friends.
I give thanks for the Falls Church News-Press. This publication offers us a tool to communicate to the citizens of Falls Church important issues and needs specific to the city of Falls Church. It provides pictures and news of local happenings including scouting, faith communities, civic groups, and even features a pet of the week in its “Critter Corner.”
I give thanks for service organizations and ministries in our city such as Homestretch, the Falls Church Housing Corporation, the Homeless Shelter, CrossLink International, and Meals on Wheels. These groups remind us of the need to reach out to our neighbors in need and distress, particularly in housing, medical care, and food. Such persons may seem invisible, but they are a part of our community. Every day I have persons coming by Dulin Church seeking assistance be it for housing, food, gasoline, medicine, and believe it or not, toilet paper.
I give thanks for the faith communities. Through their ministries, millions of dollars are spent within the city to meet human needs. Parishioners use hands and feet to give countless hours of time in their mission to love their neighbor. Faith communities use their buildings and facilities to house and support preschools, English-as-a-Second Language classes, feeding the hungry, Vacation Bible School, and scouting programs to name just a few. Our religious leaders provide a prophetic voice of justice and mercy to the community. It is through this voice that citizens are called to share our God-given resources of time, money and talent with others.
Lastly, I give thanks for the citizens of this city. This is “small town USA.” We have a strong community spirit through our participation in events such as the farmer’s market, the Memorial Day parade, and the Don Beyer Volvo 3K Family Fun Run. Where else do you see Santa Claus riding around in a fire truck, sirens blaring, wishing us Merry Christmas?
Let each of us in our own way give thanks this Thanksgiving Day for the blessings God has showered upon us and our little city that we all love so dearly.
The Rev. Dr. M. Davies Kirkland is pastor at Dulin United Methodist Church in Falls Church.