Thanksgiving is a special season that allows us to reflect on the many blessings that we’ve had the opportunity to experience throughout the year. It’s a moment to remember the true goodness in life that we may often overlook or take for granted with the busyness of work, school or other competing priorities. Having a good measure of health, an abundance of food, shelter and a place to live, the company and laughter of friends and the love and warmth of family are just a few treasures that life gives to us. Thanksgiving is also a time when we can express our thanks through an act of pure kindness.
This year, my thanks was in my giving. I had the chance to volunteer with Michigan State University’s Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions. Each year, OCAT hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for students who are on campus during the holiday and may be unable to go home to their families during the fall break. MSU’s student body includes approximately 13.7% international students, and many out-of-state students typically don’t leave campus during this time. Over 800 students participated in this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, and approximately 50 eager volunteers got up early Thursday morning to set up tables, transport and organize multiple quantities of food to serve each student a warm, hearty Thanksgiving meal. What motivates an individual to stay up late and get up early on their day off to prepare and serve food to more than 800 hungry students?
Volunteering is where I find one of my greatest joys. I get to warm the hearts of others by something as simple as gingerly scooping up a spoonful of mashed potatoes and placing it neatly on a student’s plate, smiling and saying, “I’m glad that you’re here. Happy Thanksgiving!” This may seem small, but the impact has a lasting impression in the mind and inside heart of the receiver. Quoting the wise words of Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people may forget what you’ve done, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Seeing volunteering through the lens and the heart of giving makes the season that much brighter. It is in treasuring the small things that helps us to remember to count our blessings. May we all get the opportunity to express an act of kindness and to truly give thanks.