The seasonal changes of autumn may be more pronounced up north than they are here in Florida, but they are nonetheless unmistakable. The leaves and the temperatures are falling at the same time the anticipation about one of our favorite national holidays is rising.
Thanksgiving has a way of bringing us together. For most Americans it is a time for families and friends to connect, reflect, and collectively count our blessings.
Unfortunately, there are too many in our country for whom blessings are but memories. Those who are in poor in health or wealth struggle to find the spirit and means to enjoy the Thanksgiving feast that so many of us take for granted.
That disappointing reality is one reason why my wife, Ghada, and I began the Ramadan-Thanksgiving Food Basket program in Hernando County. Since 2001 we have worked with the United Way to distribute food baskets to needy families and military veterans. This year, with the support of Publix supermarkets and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), more than 200 food baskets were prepared for deserving recipients in Hernando County.
Happily, the popularity of the program has extended far beyond our local community. Across the U.S. and even in Canada, Muslims are putting into practice the lessons of kindness and charity that are cornerstones of our faith.
At the same time, our sponsorship of these food baskets (and open-door dinners in other communities) are representative of America's global identity as a caring and generous society. Conscientious Americans accept they have a responsibility to help those who need it most, and that is precisely what we have endeavored to achieve with our annual food basket program.
Even though the program is titled "Ramadan Thanksgiving," it has little to do with the seasonal Muslim religious observance. It just so happened that the first year we sponsored the program the seasons of Thanksgiving and Ramadan coincided. But this year, for example, Ramadan began in August and ended in September. But we do not believe there is a time limit on feeding the hungry or giving thanks for our many blessings.
Our country was founded on the quest for tolerance and acceptance. That was the case at the Plymouth Colony in 1621 and it still is today. The diversity in cultures, religions and politics is what makes this country strong and a shining example to the rest of the world about the importance of working together for the greater good. Thanksgiving is arguably the best time of the year to celebrate that diversity, especially as it relates to our families and the American experience.
Our charitable effort is just one of many that take place in our communities. Throughout the year, other organizations and groups work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for Hernando County residents. I hope you will join me in applauding their concern and their good deeds.
But on this year, the 10th anniversary of the Ramadan-Thanksgiving Food Basket program, I want to thank those who have helped transform our concept from its modest, parochial beginnings to a national endeavor. Their generosity, unity and hard work is one more blessing for which we all can be thankful this holiday.
Dr. Adel Eldin is an interventional cardiologist in Hernando and Pasco counties.