Demonstrating ‘Iowa Nice’ at Thanksgiving

Demonstrating ‘Iowa Nice’ at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the holiday where most people extend gratitude to family members and close friends for making their life better. Thanksgiving 2018 should also be a time to reflect on what we could do to revive Iowa Nice, which we’ve lost due to recent political rancor.

For decades religious leaders and philanthropists have encouraged people to share a portion of their “time, talent and treasures” to make the world more enriched.

Our gift of time is unique since we control its usage. Reflect on what neighbor, hospital, school, library, nursing home or not-for-profit organization might enjoy receiving some of your time. One hour of volunteer time per week per individual could make a world of difference, leading to a more civil and inclusive society. Let’s each reach out while there’s still some sand in our hourglass.

Our talents vary. Most people have at least one of the following skill sets they could share with others: bookkeeping, cooking, cleaning, child care, engineering, marketing, carpentry, painting, public relations, writing, home maintenance or secretarial. How about sharing one of your talents with a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, homeless shelter, senior citizen’s center or your favorite not-for-profit organization? Talent-sharing will truly be cherished by those who aren’t as talented as you.

If you are reading this op-ed, you have a talent that can be shared: reading. Research is replete that proficiency in reading by the third grade is paramount to high school graduation, full-time employment and staying out of trouble as a teenager and adult. Consider calling an elementary school and ask if you could volunteer just one hour a week as a Reading Buddy with some first, second and third graders to help them become proficient readers. What a long-term reward this would bring to your community and our society.

Finally, some people have more treasures than others. What you do with your material possessions may say more about your legacy than you realize.

Iowa is the land of plenty. However, 1) one of every eight adult Iowans (12 percent) are food insecure; defined as “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food,” 2) 17.8 percent of Iowa children are food insecure and 3) about 65 percent of food pantry and food bank recipients struggle between paying for food or paying for their medical care, medicine or utilities.

To partially solve this problem, while enjoying your Thanksgiving feast, visit with your table mates about each person giving just $5, $10 or $20 to their community, religious, school or other formally established food bank. Most food banks are able to take every dollar contribution and help provide up to four meals. Your gift would truly be treasured.

Besides giving thanks to your loved ones at Thanksgiving and contemplating on what time, talent and treasures you can put into play to assist your neighbors also reflect on the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be only happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Our time, talent and treasure actions can parallel the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “It is in giving that we receive” and permit ‘Iowa Nice’ to be brought back into the fold.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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