On this most challenging of Thanksgivings, it’s helpful to remember the ‘giving’ half of the word

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — This Thanksgiving is one rich with irony. The one day on the U.S. calendar set aside specifically to offer up thanks comes along at a time of crisis, a time we are more likely to count our challenges and misfortunes than our blessings. It need not be so.

The holiday that brings together extended families like no other — often from points all over the national map — crashes head-on into the urgent cries of authorities begging us to avoid that traditional practice. But there is much to be thankful for.

Start in Oildale, where the North Bakersfield Rotary club was working Wednesday morning to keep the giving in Thanksgiving. The first year of this project, 14 years ago, North Bakersfield Rotary handed out 200 food baskets. Wednesday, with the help of volunteers from more than a half-dozen other organizations, including Chevron, Varner Brothers, the Sheriff’s Department, Supervisor Mike Maggard, Standard School District employees, North High School students and others, they passed out 350 meals.

Lindsay Harrison, the family and community engagement facilitator for the Standard School District, said the outpouring of volunteerism says good things about the community.

“We’re like a family and so as a community, as a county, we’re a family,” Harrison said. “We’re here to support one another, and let me do for you so you can do for someone else.

” … It’s a tradition for people. Not just to get the baskets but to provide the baskets as well. And so when we do that, everybody loves it and everybody feels the love.”

Sheri Horn-Bunk of North Bakersfield Rotary acknowledged another kind of help.

“With the help of Church Without Walls here in Oildale — they’ve given us really the most needy people — we feel we’re really making an impact,” she said.

With the meal itself, yes, but also the accompanying moments of communion, of understanding.

These Rotarians have a great thing going, but they’re not alone.

All over Kern County, all over California and America, individuals and organizations are setting aside their grievances with the world, be they medical, political or economic, and remembering that nothing, not even a pandemic, can strip them of their humanity, diminish their empathy, intrude on their basic kindness.

Because, even as pharmaceutical companies rush to produce a Covid-19 vaccine — something concrete we should all be thankful for — the real medicine is our collective willingness to reach out, to offer comfort and support.

It’s important to remember that Thanksgiving is a compound word. We seem to focus on the “thanks” part — which is important, but it compels us to produce a list of blessings. Again, a healthy and worthwhile undertaking.

But these North Bakersfield Rotarians, like so many generous Americans this difficult holiday week, are a reminder that the word has a second part as well.

Giving.

Let us appreciate both.

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