NOTE: My statements are not necessarily my opinions. I often post point-counterpoint essays in which I strongly take one side of an issue and later counter that with antithetical views. This intellectual exercise helps me see the merit in opposing opinions and augments my creativity.

Give someone a free Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner

In the United States, it is traditional for people to share Thanksgiving dinner with their family and friends. I'd like to start a new trend: inviting people who are down on their luck—folks who might otherwise go hungry or spend the day alone. The joy of togetherness accompanying holidays seems to rub salt in the wounds of those lacking such closeness, amplifying their pain.

I know what it is like to be hungry and alone on Thanksgiving. I applied too late for financial aid one semester in college. I generally worked one to three jobs to support myself, but that money was rapidly dissipated by tuition, books, fees, and basic living expenses. I usually had enough money to eat, but not that semester. With about a month remaining in it, I had absolutely no money for food. Two weeks prior I had half a jar of peanut butter, which was rapidly emptied, yet I kept it, spending about an hour per day scraping off a few more milligrams. In retrospect, I wasted more energy doing that than I obtained from it, but hey, it was food, and I was reluctant to part with it.

As my body slowly digested itself in starvation those weeks, I learned something most college students never discover: what it's like to be really hungry. Consequently, I was especially eager to drive home to share Thanksgiving dinner with my family.

Just one problem: I awoke to find fresh snow blanketing the roads, and county snowplow drivers evidently weren't working that day. The snow wasn't very deep, but my car tires were completely bald, and I was renting a room from a surprisingly cold, uncaring couple who lived in a valley. Every road leading from it took me up steep hills. I tried every one several times, with my treadless tires losing traction well before the top. I attempted to get a running start, hoping the extra speed would propel me over the top, but that just made each descent even more nightmarish, when I'd slide down the hill, backward.

I knew I was trapped, so I abandoned my efforts and returned to my room and my jar with traces of peanut butter. With no classes to attend, I spent more time than ever hunting for what little remained, but with the jar now virtually transparent, I knew it wasn't much.

I gave up and decided to take my mind off my hunger by reading a book about one of my relatives, Chester Alan Arthur, who was President of the United States from 1881 to 1885. This effectively diverted my attention from my hunger until I reached the part describing his habit of eating a single meal per day: a sumptuous multi-course meal spanning three hours, during which time he gorged on yummy food courtesy of U.S. taxpayers, though his salary and other benefits never came close to fully compensating him for what he did for the country. Wartime presidents tend to get all the glory, but Arthur was one of the key leaders who shaped America for the better.

At Arthur's behest, the International Meridian Conference was held, which “established the Greenwich Meridian and international standardized time, both in use today.” He presided over the United States when it became “the first Western country [in modern times] to establish diplomatic relations with Korea.” He “tried to lower tariff rates so the government would not be embarrassed by annual surpluses of revenue.” Wouldn't it be nice to have that problem now? :-)

Arthur signed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act into law, “moved decisively to curb corruption and incompetency within the Navy,” and became known as the Father of the Steel Navy for something we now take for granted: steel warships. Arthur “overturned a court-martial ruling against African American West Point Cadet Johnson Whittaker,” who'd been mistreated because of his race.

Arthur was raised in an abolitionist home (his father cofounded the New York Anti-Slavery Society) and later practiced law in New York, where he ably and commendably defended the civil rights of slaves, as I proudly discussed in another article explaining why I am selling my Sea-doo, Ski-doo, and shed to help a deported person reenter the U.S.

Chester's wife died of pneumonia shortly before he became President. He vowed to never remarry and “had a memorial to his beloved “Nell”—a stained glass window—installed in St. John's Episcopal Church within view of his [White House] office and had the church light it at night so he could look at it. The memorial remains to this day.” (source)

Arthur was a fascinating figure although, as a relative, I am bound to be partial to him. Exploring his life helped take my mind off my own, which was spent alone in my room, with my book and nearly empty jar of peanut butter. I secretly hoped that when my landlord and his family finished their dinner now ongoing thirty feet away, they'd invite me to nibble on the leftovers, but no such luck. All those people, and not one evidently gave a hoot about someone spending Thanksgiving day alone in their home, without food. I vowed to be different.

If anyone in my area wants a free Thanksgiving dinner with me or food to make your own, let me know.

The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

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