Thanksgiving, this year November 22, was inaugurated in 1621 by the colonial Pilgrims who wanted to show their gratitude for having a productive harvest which provided satisfying meals. Thanksgiving continues to be a day upon which most Americans gather with family and friends for feasting and counting their blessings.
“Counting one’s blessings is not just a positive practice for emotional health,” shared Danielle Rubin, Project Director of American Friends of Meir Panim, to Breaking Israel News. “It’s actually been shown to improve physical health as well as increase joy in life.”
When one counts his or her blessings, they often find more reasons to be thankful. This reduces negative emotions such as resentment, frustration and regret. It also helps people overcome depression and can even help obtain better sleep.
One study found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude suffered lower incidences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The Bible is replete with reminders that people should give thanks for the blessings in their lives. In fact, the matriarch Leah names her fourth son Yehudah, which comes from the word odeh, to give thanks. In English, Yehudah is Judah, from which we get the word Judaism. It is a basic tenant in Judaism to thank God for all He has bestowed upon us.
In light of Thanksgiving, Rubin reflected on the reality that 1.8 million Israelis live under the poverty line. They do not know where they will get their next meal, and many must choose between heating their homes or having food to eat during the cold winter months. “This is a humbling reality for those of us who have never been faced with such difficult and heartbreaking decisions,” she said.
In that light, here are 5 basic necessities for which to give thanks this Thanksgiving:
(1) Nutritious food – “If not for Meir Panim, hundreds of hungry adults and children in Israel would not have proper food to eat,” said Rubin.
(2) Health – “Many struggling Israelis, especially the elderly and Holocaust survivors, must choose between food or medicine,” noted Rubin. “Meir Panim helps by not only serving fresh meals in our Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens, but also allowing patrons to take food home.”
(3) A safe place to live – “Meir Panim sponsors two after-school youth clubs located in renovated bomb shelters in rocket-bombarded Sderot in southern Israel,” told Rubin. “Most of us cannot imagine facing that level of safety threat in our daily lives.”
(4) Clothing – “So many of Meir Panim’s clientele do not have proper shoes or winter coats to wear,” shared Rubin. “So Meir Panim works to distribute warm clothing during the cold winter months.”
(5) Friends and family – “Poverty marginalizes people – many struggling individuals find themselves lonely and without an active social life,” said Rubin. “Meir Panim’s network of social welfare programs provide a safe place for adults and children to socialize and feel that they are cared about.”
Not only on Thanksgiving but also every day we are tasked with seeing the blessings in our lives. When we recognize the good, we have the potential to become more generous people to those who are needy. Giving to others can be one of life’s greatest blessings.
To donate to Meir Panim’s network of social welfare programs in Israel, please click here.
Written in cooperation with Meir Panim.