As we gather with family and friends during the holiday season, we traditionally pause to remember what is important to us, giving thanks for our many blessings.
As this Thanksgiving brings us together, many families are facing unusual challenges, both economic and emotional. In the face of rising home foreclosures and the specter of unemployment, many families are certainly finding it more difficult to offer thanks this year.
Let's remember, it is not during times of plenty, but in times of hardship, that we truly realize the meaning of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not based solely on material things. True thanksgiving grows from the relationships we have with the people in our lives, those who provide comfort, support and guidance during times of crisis and confusion.
As an advocate dedicated to shaping prevention policy and investing in programs that provide measurable benefits for our state's children, families and communities, I am especially sensitive to the need for community.
When people are isolated, or feel they are all alone, they have fewer resources to manage the challenges life presents. Without a strong community, people are more likely to suffer depression and engage in behaviors that lead to violence, substance abuse or other problems that affect both the individual and the community as a whole.
As Americans, we enjoy our freedoms and a strong sense of community. While we certainly value individual determination and self-reliance, we also understand the importance of looking out for others. From our family, to our community, to our nation, we believe every person has a role in strengthening the whole.
We realize that as a community, we are only as strong as our weakest members. To enjoy the benefits of living in a healthy, productive community, I believe we must share in the responsibility of caring for our children, elderly, sick and impoverished. By sharing our strengths, we all become stronger.
Perhaps the secret to celebrating Thanksgiving this year can be found not in the "thanks" but in the "giving." By giving generously of our resources and of ourselves to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and even to strangers we may never meet, we contribute to the betterment of our community and help pave the path to a positive future.
Let's create opportunities to share ourselves and our gifts with others this holiday season.
Douglas Sessions Jr. of Tallahassee is president and CEO of the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida. The Ounce of Prevention Fund is a national organization dedicated to addressing the multiple needs of poor children from birth to age 5.