Thanksgiving: A Season, Holiday or Way of Life

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 9:18pm

Katie Heger

North Dakota Family Farmer

With Thanksgiving already upon us—and Christmas and Hanukkah quick to follow—we begin thinking more of life’s blessings. We see trends in social media where all the things we are thankful for are shared daily. We reflect on the importance of family, friends, opportunities, jobs and the abundance of material items we have. But, is Thanksgiving really just a holiday? Is it the entire season that encompasses the time from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31? Or is it a mindset that we should embrace each day throughout the year?

As I have become older, more observant, and had the opportunity to encounter some struggles, I have grown in the belief that “thanksgiving” is a way of life. I strived to find a way to teach that to my kids. I wasn’t sure how to go about it without incorporating yet another lecture about appreciating the things they have and the family that surrounds them. I knew I wanted to help them see the need for service and helping others, and I knew I didn’t want it to be a one-shot deal. But what could we do? And then out of the blue I received an email with a grant opportunity. The light bulb came on and “Grow It Forward” became a reality.

My children, along with some of our 4-H club members, planted a garden. They learned about planting, soil and plant health, maintenance, and harvesting. They built a vegetable stand and worked to grow produce that others would benefit from. Each week the kids would tend to the garden, harvest vegetables and place fresh produce on the stand for members of the community to help themselves to. There was no cost associated with the food. Consumers were asked to donate what they could, but if they couldn’t afford to, they were welcome to help themselves.

We also took time to learn about those in need in our community. Hundreds of people in our county were in need of assistance on a daily basis. They struggled to have food to prepare balanced meals. They had to make decisions that the kids participating in our “Grow It Forward” project never even imagined (i.e. whether to pay for a field trip for their kids or buy food for dinner, purchase gas to drive to work or buy needed medicine, purchase a small birthday gift or purchase groceries). The project became more than learning to grow vegetables. It became part of the children’s and community’s heart. The 4-H members no longer wanted to know how much money they made, but how much they had collected to give. Community members started dropping off their own excess garden produce, donating it to the cause. A local business also reached out and collaborated with the project to make a donation in exchange for enough sweet corn for all of their employees.

When the “Grow It Forward” season was over, the project had raised $1200. These funds went directly to our local county resource center and food pantry. Yes, this was more than we could have imagined, but even more importantly, the sense of thankfulness for what we have, kindness, and service was better understood and a community grew together.

Thankfulness is not something to be celebrated for a single day or even a few months, but something that should be on our minds and in our hearts each and every day of the year. I challenge you: Think about what you can do to grow thankfulness within yourself, family, community, and the circles you travel. Then go forth and “Grow It Forward!”

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Katie Heger, dedicated advocate for agriculture, blogs at hegerfamilyfarms.wordpress.com and shares at Heger Farms on Facebook. Katie and her husband farm corn, soybeans and wheat in central North Dakota.

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