Give hope and food around the world. That is the true spirit of the holiday.
FORMER Massachusetts Gov. Robert Bradford was a messenger of hope. It was the Thanksgiving season of 1947 and Bradford, a descendant of the Pilgrims, made a special radio address to the nation.
The governor asked Americans to invite a silent guest into their homes for their Thanksgiving meals. This imaginary “silent guest” would be one of the hungry people in Europe. Remember, this was just two years after World War II. The destruction caused by the war had ruined food production in many nations.
Things got even worse during the summer of ’47. Drought struck Europe. Crops could not grow without the rain.
Starving people overseas needed help. Bradford’s call to action to fight hunger was heard by Americans, but was also broadcast in Europe. The people of the war-torn nations got a stirring message of hope that food would be arriving. Their nightmare of hunger would soon be ending.
“The plan is as simple as this,” Bradford said. “You would like to ask one more guest to your Thanksgiving dinner, someone who cannot come. Since he cannot come, what you would have spent to have him at your table you send instead to American Silent Guest, Pilgrim Hall, Plymouth, Mass.”
The next thing you knew, sacks of donation letters appeared at Pilgrim Hall and the Massachusetts State House. It was a flood of contributions from across the country. Some donations were as little as $1 and some as high as $200.
The Silent Guest committee used the funds to buy CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) packages. Hungry people in Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands received these food parcels on Thanksgiving Day. These food deliveries continued throughout the holidays and into the New Year.
But the silent guest should not reside in history, for there are more hungry refugees today than any time since World War II.
There are war and hunger emergencies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Ukraine. Famine is threatening Ethiopia. In earthquake-ravaged Nepal, there are many hungry children in the aftermath of April’s earthquake.
The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which is the lead hunger-relief agency, does not have enough funds to feed these war and disaster victims. Rations have already been cut.
This Thanksgiving holiday, Americans should again invite silent guests into their homes. Make a donation to the World Food Programme and other agencies fighting hunger.
People can even use a free app called Charity Miles to raise money for the program, just by walking or running. Every mile means a donation of a meal, paid for by corporate sponsors — how easy technology has made donating.
Take in a silent guest this Thanksgiving and holiday season. Give hope and food around the world. That is the true spirit of the holiday.