- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2003

Each daybreak, I begin my prayers first by giving praise: “Thank you, Lord, for my blessings to numerous too name.” Then I name them one by one: My faith, my family, my friends, my good health and fortune, even “mine enemies and my foes.”

Each morning, I start out by saying, “My cup runneth over,” because it does even when life inevitably delivers its double dose of challenges. By nightfall, after the stress of the drama du jour, I often catch myself saying, “I’m hanging in there,” usually by my fingernails. I know, dear reader, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Rich or poor, famous or infamous, we all have our daily dramas and duties to bear.

If you think you have little for which to be grateful this Thanksgiving, think again. If you’re reading this, at least your name is not listed on the obituary page. The advancing years, for example, have taught me that if you don’t have your health, you can’t do anything for anyone, let alone yourself. If you have any doubt, just accompany me to the nursing home for a visit with my mother.

If you sat down yesterday to a tender smoked turkey with cornbread stuffing and collard greens on your table, think of all those folks who had to stand in line for a whiff of the one great meal they’ve had all year. I’m ever mindful of the gospel song that Jackie Gales Webb plays every Sunday on WHUR-FM about the person who complained about not having any shoes until he looked around and saw someone who didn’t have any feet. Tis true, all you have to do is turn around and you’ll soon see evidence that there is someone having a tougher time than you are. This pull-you-out-of-your-pity-party usually occurs just when you think things can’t get any worse in your world.

Then, almost immediately, you witness worse in the eyes of a scared child, an abused woman, a destitute man, a bloody soldier or a war-wracked country.

There is much work for us to do in this topsy-turvy world, my friends.

We are all busy and bothered. But who has time to feel sorry for themselves when 14 million children in Africa are without parents? Or when 14,000 people a day, many of the children, are homeless and hungry right here in our own back yards? Complain if you must, and I’ll grant you that there are high taxes and poor public services to wail in the wind about. But work your hands as fast as you work your mouth, and you are bound to change the life of at least one other person.

I love the poster that reads: “To help one child is to change the world.” We can help in big as well as small ways.

Last weekend, when the sun was shining and it was a balmy 70 degrees, I spoke to a roomful of civic-minded residents in the District’s Ward 7 who could have been doing any number of fun things besides sitting in a church basement working through an agenda designed to make a difference in their community.

I was moved to thank them for coming out on such a glorious day because their presence demonstrated that they have not lost faith in America’s democratic process.

Keep in mind, we can’t change the world by volunteering just during the Twelve Days of Christmas or Thanksgiving. Substantive and sustainable social work is a 24/7 proposition every day of the year. But it only takes a second to make someone smile. Notice that it is at your darkest hour that deliverance comes in the form of some small but special show of love: a phone call, a greeting card, a hug from someone special. It’s these little grace notes — even silly, sappy chain letters sent via e-mail — that can keep us going from morning to noon and well into the wee hours of the night with a smile rather than a scowl on our faces.

I marvel at the countless times during my career that I have come across the surprising phenomena in which the people who have the least to give offer the most.

For the men and women who literally extend the shirts off their backs, we must all be grateful. It is for them and all those who volunteer their time, their talent and their tokens to help others this holiday and every other day, that truly “my cup runneth over.”

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