Tis the season! And no, contrary to the Christmas songs that have snuck in to the mall's music playlist and wintery decorations that have already made their way out in all the retail stores, the season to which I am referring is Thanksgiving. Often a time of family gathering, good food, naps, and if your Thanksgiving is like mine, another round of good food.
Sadly though, as with other holidays such as Veterans' Day, Memorial Day, or the Fourth of July, the true meaning and intent of the holiday is fully embraced for the day and far too often forgotten the next. We remember those less fortunate than us and say a prayer of thanksgiving for those whom we are blessed to have in our lives, only to fall into our normal routines the following day.
That is one amazing aspect of the Saint Vincent community: that there are always ways to give thanks and to be the source of the smile on a total stranger's face... no matter what season it may be.
One of these times of giving, which I have been fortunate enough to participate in, happened every year before the Saint Vincent spring break mission trip to Brazil. During my four years at SVC, I never made a trip with Campus Ministry, SGA or APB, which to this day remains my biggest regret as a Bearcat. But that is beside the point. Every year when the students went to Brazil, the cross country team would donate running shoes to be sent to the children being serviced by the ministry.
You should realize that each of us would go through at least three pairs of shoes per season. And when we switched out our shoes, there was really nothing wrong with them... they were still good for walking or daily use, but were not able to withstand many more miles of running. I never got to see the faces or the reaction of those less fortunate putting on the shoes that I would have otherwise just thrown away. But after hearing about the experience of delivering those shoes to the communities, it not only made me more aware of the simple blessings of running shoes, but also more conscientious of how easy it can be to make someone's day.
Most of us have lived that poor college student lifestyle, where a fancy dinner consisted of a midnight Sheetz run. Trust me, I've been there. Where your monthly paycheck is a whopping $150, and you are so excited to run and finally get that clunking noise in your car checked out that's had you wondering if your car would survive your next trip home. But the beauty of Saint Vincent is that money is not the only gift that students can give.
A prime example is Sports Friendship Day, which is a day for students to spend time with persons with intellectual disabilities or physical limitations on campus. The students buddy up with the guests and participate in sports activities, arts, crafts, dinner and Mass. Students can either give their time to help organize or participate in the event, or are encouraged to donate a meal to the event. One meal... think about that one. Sacrificing an evening in the cafe and making someone's day. Sounds like a no brainer there.
Sports Friendship Day is not the only Campus Ministry-sponsored thanks giving/giving back activity. They offer so many opportunities to give back: from caroling at nursing homes to service trips to Alaska and Taiwan to working at the local food bank. So the next time that you're sitting in church and the collection basket gets passed to you, or the next time that you walk past the Salvation Army bell ringer standing outside of your local grocery store, don't sweat it and start feeling guilty that you don't have any money on you. Remember, there are plenty of ways to give back and plenty more reasons to give thanks for all of the blessings that each of us have been given. Make it your goal to extend Thanksgiving beyond the holiday season, and to make every day a day of thanks.